Legislators tackle DCF problems

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Problems within the Department of Children and Families led to lawmakers introducing a bill Thursday that would require officials to notify the governor and legislature when the worst issues arise.

That includes when children are missing or are having to sleep in offices in DCF’s contractors’ facilities.

As of Thursday there were 84 foster children missing in the state.

“We don’t know where they are, so we can’t provide them the services they need, we can’t keep them safe or protected if we don’t know where they are,” said Senator Molly Baumgardner, who spoke in favor of the bill Thursday.

The bill would also require officials to tell the local newspaper in the town that the child is missing.

DCF Director of Policy Rebekah Gaston spoke against the bill citing that requirement because confidentiality laws would be violated. She said that it would put $55 million of federal funding in jeopardy.

“I think there could be case by case decisions made where it could be helpful to release that information, but we can’t release every child’s name,” said Gaston.

But she said DCF is willing to listen.

“We are having a lot of conversations with legislators and with other stakeholders about how we can better take care of the kids in Kansas,” said Gaston. “So we are always updating policies to do that.”

According to Baumgardner, changes should have already been made.

“We cannot pass laws, make sure there is adequate funding if we don’t know how significant the problem is,” said Baumgardner.

She said she is just trying to get vital information to people that could use it.

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