In fiscal year 2021, 4 case management providers served about 7,000 children in foster care statewide. DCF monitors the foster care program at a high level, but case management providers determine how best to serve children in foster care. Although DCF generally has adequate written policies, DCF and case management providers’ practices were not adequate to ensure the safety of children in foster care in several areas. DCF’s policies appeared generally adequate to ensure children were placed in appropriate homes, but they could be stronger in one area. However, case management providers did not meet key safety and well-being standards related to appropriate placements. Further, case management providers aren’t always using comprehensive data for making placement decisions. DCF policies were adequate regarding monthly visits between case management staff and children in foster care. However, in practice case management providers did not follow DCF policy related to frequency of in-home visits. Further, case management providers did not sufficiently assess the safety of a child in all cases. DCF had adequate policies and grant requirements for responding to urgent matters. However, foster parents complained about slow responses to urgent situations and poor communication in general. DCF policies on foster parent training were adequate, and most foster parents report they have been provided with appropriate training. DCF had adequate policies to locate missing foster care children, and it appears case management providers and DCF followed took appropriate action for runaway or missing children. High caseloads and data use likely caused many of the issues we found related to child placement and safety. DCF has not taken action to correct systemwide safety issues despite continued concerns about the safety of children in foster care.
The state does not have the capacity to provide services to all children in foster care, especially those with specialized service needs. Most Kansas counties had enough foster home capacity to meet their demand in fiscal year 2021, but close to 40% of the state’s counties might not have enough foster home capacity. Even when counties have enough licensed foster homes, stakeholders told us the state may not have enough homes to care for children with complex physical, emotional, and behavioral needs. DCF told us they are looking into options to address placements for children with complex physical, emotional, and behavioral needs children. Caseloads for case workers were higher across the state than best practices recommend. Case workers we surveyed told us high caseloads made it difficult for them to do their job. Across the state, children may not have always received services they needed, especially specialized or acute services. Much like safety issues, service delivery and capacity issues are not new to DCF and suggest larger accessibility issues.