Editor’s Note: 27 News is examining the governor’s campaign 2018 promises. This is the first story in a series that will be released in the coming weeks.

TOPEKA (KSNT) – Kansas Governor Laura Kelly made many promises before and after she ran for office, but did she deliver?

This week, 27 News examined Kelly’s promise to “fix our broken foster care system” which she made during her 2019 State of the State Address. While no explicit goal was set with this promise, Kelly did take action to improve foster care for foster youths in the state.

Our foster care system is at a crisis point. It requires immediate and considerable attention.

Excerpt from Governor Kelly’s 2019 State of the State speech

27 News reached out to the Kelly campaign for comment on the actions she took throughout her governorship for improving foster care in Kansas.

Kelly took a number of actions during her time as governor to “fix” the foster care system in Kansas. Data provided by the Kansas Department for Children and Families shows foster care has improved in several areas in the state.

According to the KDCF, the number of children in foster care has fallen by 15%. The rate at which children in the foster care system move from one home to another has dipped to 6.6 moves per 1,000 days down from 9.9 moves. The number of foster children staying with relatives has increased from 30% to 40% since Kelly took office.

In October 2021, Kelly announced the creation of a Division of Child Advocate with the objective of protecting children and families. This made Kansas the 14th state to create an independent advocate to oversee child welfare services.

The Family First Prevention Services Act, which was signed into law on Feb. 9, 2018, provided evidence-based services in mental health, substance use, parent skill building and kinship navigation. This allowed Kansas to allocate over $6.5 million in state general funds and $13 million total to organizations who help provide these services, according to the KDCF.

Kelly also expanded paid leave time for Kansas state employees in July 2021, allowing them to have an extra two weeks of paid leave. Primary caregivers were allowed to have eight weeks of paid leave rather than six, while secondary caregivers were given four weeks instead of three.

Lastly, strides were taken to improve services in Kansas with the establishment of the “Kansas Practice Model” to guide state-level collaboration with families and children. Kelly’s administration also hired more than 40 additional protection specialists to help students studying child welfare, according to the KDCF.

However, Kelly was also involved in a lawsuit in 2019 directed at her and the Kansas Department for Children and Families that made claims of neglect and abuse against children in the foster care system. This lawsuit, M.B. v. Howard (previously known as M.B. vs Colyer), was filed on Nov. 16, 2018. Kelly asked to be dismissed from the lawsuit, saying the appropriate parties were already involved.

Kansas gubernatorial candidate Derek Schmidt put out a press release on Aug. 23 criticizing Kelly’s so called “broken promises” that were made to foster children.

“Governor Kelly made a promise in 2018 to fix the Kansas foster care system – even going as far to say we have a ‘moral obligation’ to do so – and the bottom line is she’s failed,” Schmidt wrote. “Many of the problems plaguing the system are still there.”

Schmidt points to reports from the KDCF about children sleeping in contractor offices and administrators failing to report child sex abuse cases as required by Kansas law. He also accuses Kelly of costing Kansas taxpayers $2.3 million in legal fees from settling the M.B. v. Howard lawsuit which received a ruling from a federal judge on Aug. 19, 2021.

“It doesn’t have to be this way,” Schmidt wrote. “Together with her failures when it comes to jobs, education, and her response to the COVID pandemic, the hallmark of Governor Kelly’s term has been overpromising and underdelivering. She hasn’t fixed the problems she promised to solve. Kansas children deserve better, and with the right leadership we can and will do better.”