In her ongoing commitment to increasing transparency and fixing Kansas’ broken foster care system, Governor Laura Kelly and Department for Children and Families Secretary Laura Howard today announced new initiatives designed to improve the agency’s efforts to locate children who are absent or have run away from custody.
Beginning today, the agency will publish the secretary’s daily absent and runaway children report on its public website here.
“Since 2017 when I raised the alarm about missing foster children, I have been working to find ways to improve transparency in DCF and shine a light on this issue,” said Kelly. “The additional transparency can only help to educate the public and legislators about the processes used by DCF to locate these vulnerable citizens.”
The daily A & R Report will include several data points including:
• Number of days missing
• Status (missing or runaway)
The report also includes information when children are located.
Additionally, the secretary will provide case-specific information in a closed setting to legislators, in accordance with state law. Per KSA 38-2212(d)(1), the secretary will arrange for members of certain standing committees, to review case specific information like name and location of absent or runaway foster children. After signing a confidentiality agreement, the following standing committees will receive access to this information:
• House and Senate Judiciary
• House Corrections and Juvenile Justice
• House Appropriations
• Senate Ways and Means
• Legislative Post Audit
• Any joint committee with authority to consider children’s and families’ issues
Finally, DCF will begin releasing demographic information to the local news media of the county where a child goes missing (except in rare cases when releasing the age and gender of a missing or runaway child would violate federal confidentiality laws).
Kelly believes this new transparency package will effectively balance the need for transparency within the state’s foster care system with concerns about confidentiality and safety of children.
“We understand that legislators are concerned for the safety and well-being of the children in state custody,” said Howard. “This process is an effort to be as responsive as possible under the law while also preventing the unintended consequences of publicly identifying foster children.”
The disclosures outlined by the Governor will increase transparency while also maintaining the privacy of vulnerable children and ensure federal funding is not jeopardized.