Some employees at branches of the Kansas Department for Children and Families have never met the state agency’s secretary, but DCF Secretary Gina Meier-Hummel is in the process of visiting each of the 36 offices. Her visit to Great Bend on Tuesday was number 27.
Meier-Hummel was appointed by Gov. Jeff Colyer on Nov. 22, 2017. This week she said she is visiting with DCF staff and with “stake-holders,” that include judges, law enforcement, foster care providers and others. Among those who shared concerns Tuesday were Marissa Woodmansee, director of the 20th Judicial District Juvenile Services office in Great Bend; District Magistrate Judge Timarie Walters from St. John; and Amy Boxberger from Central Kansas Community Corrections, who is also a foster parent. State Representatives Tory Marie Arnberger, (R-Great Bend), Greg Lewis (R-St. John), and Leonard Mastroni (R-La Crosse), stopped by later.
“Obviously we’ve been working to strengthen the child welfare program,” Meier-Hummel said Tuesday. “Governor Colyer asked for a top-to-bottom review of the agency.” As a result of that six-month study, she said her office will ask the Legislature for additional staffing.
When Meier-Hummel took over as DCF secretary, she said foster children spending the night in offices instead of homes or other placements was “unacceptable.” By June there were fewer foster care kids sleeping in providers’ offices, but it hadn’t been completely eliminated.
Meier-Hummel said approximately 150 residential beds for the Juvenile Justice Authority have been added statewide and 50-80 more will be added between now and December. Her office plans to add “crisis beds” in communities, where a child can stay for up to 30 days.
“So this will address kids staying over in offices?” Lewis asked.
“I think we’ve now eliminated that,” the secretary said. “We believe we can get hundreds of kids to permanency by the end of the year,” she added.