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Answers to FAQs: Understanding KVC Kansas’ Role in the Kansas Child Welfare System

kansas child welfare system kvc kansas foster care kansas city

At KVC Kansas, we value transparency, openness and honesty. We work hard to share information on an ongoing basis about our organization’s role in strengthening families and protecting children. Due to the complexities of the child welfare system, we’ve created this page to answer frequently asked questions about foster care, family preservation and other important topics. If you have any questions that aren’t addressed here, we encourage you to reach out to us using our Contact Us page or sending us a message on Facebook.

KVC Kansas’ Role in the Child Welfare System

Each state’s child welfare system consists of policies, caring professionals and programs intended to strengthen families and protect children. For more than 20 years, the Kansas Department for Children and Families (DCF) has relied on private, nonprofit partners to help administer prevention (family preservation), foster care and adoption services. KVC Kansas is the lead agency and contractor in the Eastern half of the state and Saint Francis Community Services is the lead agency and contractor in the Western half of the state.

KVC Kansas is the only agency that has partnered with the state continuously since 1996. Among private agencies, KVC Kansas has the nation’s longest and strongest track record of providing foster care case management services.

Key Stats Since KVC Kansas Partnered with DCF

Since 1996, this innovative public/private partnership has resulted in:

  • More PreventionFamily preservation services expanded from 42% to 100% of counties.
  • More Family ReunificationsKVC safely reunified nearly 600 families in 2016.
  • More Relatives & Familiar Caregivers 47% of children served by KVC are with relatives or nonrelated kin.
  • More Siblings Staying TogetherKVC rate is 84%.
  • More Family-Like Settings – More children in foster family homes, instead of group homes (KVC rate is 96%).
  • More Foster Families – Greater public involvement (from 1,950 families in 1996 to 2,767 families today).
  • More Adoptions – Twice as many children adopted each year. These are children whose parents’ custodial rights have been terminated by the court system and are waiting for an adoptive family (from 352 to 765 adoptions).
  • Fewer Reentries Into Foster Care KVC rate of stability after a safe family reunification or adoption is 92%; state has one of the lowest reentry rates in the nation.
  • Shorter Time in Foster Care – Fewer children growing up in foster care and aging out with no support (“long-term foster care” is no longer a permitted permanency goal).
  • More Community Involvement – Private donations and innovation (examples include school supplies, holiday gifts, KVC’s Resource Family Conference, and therapy/training via MyLinkTM on iPads).

These improvements came about despite the needs being significant. There are 50% more reports of child abuse and neglect each year versus 20 years ago, resulting in many more children in need of help.

Prevention and Solutions to Improve Child Welfare

Prevention is the number one priority. KVC Kansas focuses on strengthening families and preventing child abuse and neglect. Children thrive when they are safe and able to stay at home. This leads to better outcomes, including improved health and academic performance, as well as fewer behavioral issues.

We advocate for making it easier for families to access available supports – including home visits for new parents, mental health and substance abuse treatment, job training and food assistance – through increased funding to expand reach. It costs taxpayers less to invest in prevention versus foster care, and the return is much greater.

KVC Kansas is using data analytics to understand and predict risk factors and increase prevention through population health management. Agencies must clearly define youth with high needs and provide services to them to prevent the need for more foster or residential care.

We must increase partnerships, school involvement and services for those in need before children need out-of-home care. 34% of youth in foster care have been referred for mental and behavioral health reasons, not for abuse and neglect. More families would benefit from family preservation services if expanded funding were available.

KVC is part of a growing national effort called Keeping Kids in Families. Additionally, everyone has a role to play in strengthening families and protecting children. Solutions include fostering, adopting, advocating, donating and mentoring.

Foster Care Capacity Challenges

Foster care capacity issues stem from inadequate efforts to strengthen families and prevent child abuse and neglect. The best way to address foster care capacity challenges is to prevent children from needing out-of-home care.

Children served by KVC Kansas have occasionally stayed overnight in an office while waiting to be matched with a relative caregiver or foster family. KVC’s highly-trained staff provides constant supervision and work hard to make youth feel safe and supported. KVC’s Admissions team works 24/7 to identify foster families by searching for the child’s relatives or non-related kin (such as neighbors, teachers, coaches or pastors), alerting subcontractors who may have available foster families and by using data and Matching Families

KVC Kansas is able to ensure that 47% of children remain with relatives, which is much higher than the national average of 30%. Relative care provides a safe home for a child in the fastest way possible because a relative does not need to obtain a license.

In response to reduced capacity throughout the state, KVC is pursuing new and innovative ways to recruit new foster families. This includes diligent recruitment planning in conjunction with DCF (finding diverse foster homes), new content marketing to attract people online and opening short-term emergency children’s shelters in Kansas City, Hays and Wichita. In addition, KVC Kansas is also working with DCF to review and modify licensure regulations to find better ways to speed up the foster family licensing process while always ensuring the highest quality standards.

KVC Kansas is pursuing ways to provide additional training and increased support to relatives and foster families so they are able to continue caring for children.

Mental Health of Youth in Foster Care

Adequate community-based mental health services are very important. Decreases in mental health funding and services have led to more children coming into care for trauma and behavior-related issues because parents are unable to handle these behavior challenges and safely care for their children. It has also led to an increase in child abuse/neglect because parents do not always receive the support they need in times of crisis.

Parents must have access to substance abuse treatment services. They should have access whether they have private insurance, Medicaid (KanCARE) or no insurance, as this helps prevent the need for foster care services. Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) affect a person’s health long into adulthood. They are linked to depression, disease and early death. Therefore, it is critical that each child is safe and cared for by supportive adults.

Kansas uses its state child welfare funds differently than the national pattern. It spends a larger proportion on foster care (65% Kansas vs. 47% nationally) and a smaller proportion on in-home preventative services (3% Kansas vs. 17% nationally) (Data from Child Trends Study.Prevention services are more cost-effective and outcome-effective than reactive approaches like foster care.

There are fewer psychiatric residential treatment facilities (PRTFs) for youth than there were five years ago. In general, this is a positive trend because the best solution for kids is community-based care. Research shows that children should not be in residential treatment if they can be cared for in the community. However there has been an increase in need in the last few years.

When there is strong community-based care, fewer kids need PRTFs and their length of stay can be shorter. But when community services are low, more kids need PRTFs and this leads to longer stays. There is likely to always be a need for residential care for a specific population, but it should only be for youth who need specific treatment, not as a housing option. Length of stay should be based on how each individual child is responding to treatment.

Missing and Runaway Youth

Nationally, approximately 1-2% of youth in foster care are missing or have run away.

Youth in foster care are not under lock and key. They typically live with relatives or foster families and freely attend school and extracurricular activities. They often miss their family very much, so it is not uncommon for a young person to leave the foster family they are staying with to search for their birth family.

KVC Kansas treats each missing child with great urgency, just as we would if our own child were missing. These are two core values of KVC (asking “What would you want for your own child?” and working with urgency “in child time”). We follow DCF’s detailed protocol for locating a missing youth, which begins with notifying law enforcement and DCF within 2 hours.

The majority of missing and runaway youth are found or safely return to foster family within hours or, at the most, 1-2 days.

Psychotropic Medication

KVC Kansas has safely reduced the use of psychotropic medication among youth in foster care to one of the lowest rates in the nation.

While some states prescribe psychotropic medication to upwards of 50% of their youth in foster care, less than 9% of the youth served by KVC Kansas use this type of medication. Learn more.

Contract Finance and Caregiver Reimbursements

KVC Kansas is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization which means it doesn’t have shareholders and, if revenues exceed expenses, they must be reinvested toward its charitable mission. The family preservation and reintegration contracts between DCF and KVC Kansas prohibit KVC from making a profit. If KVC revenues exceed expenses, the excess is paid back to the state. It is important for KVC to pursue fundraising to fill gaps in serving children and families.

The salaries of KVC Kansas leaders is in line with other similar sized nonprofit organizations.

The stipend that KVC pays to foster families is in line with national averages (about $20-25 per child daily, with more for children with special needs). Licensed relative caregivers are paid a rate of $12 daily for the first child and $6 daily for each additional child. Unlicensed relative caregivers are paid a rate of $6 daily for the first child and $2 daily for each additional child. The difference in rates between licensed foster families and relative caregivers is intended to match what they can receive through the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program; they can either accept the reimbursement from KVC or apply for TANF. KVC provides additional support to relative and nonrelated kin families. For example, we may cover a car repair, bunk beds or room addition to keep the child safely with a familiar caregiver. Additionally if the child is eligible for social security the relative can apply to be the payee for the child.

Relatives do not need to obtain their foster care license. We encourage them to do so as it would help additional children in need and make them eligible to receive the foster family reimbursement rate. The preference for finding relatives first is supported by the law. KVC’s rate of caring for up to 47% of children in relative/non-related kin homes is much higher than the national average of 30%. Non-related kinship caregivers of children in foster care (such as teachers, pastors, coaches, neighbors or other adults familiar to the child) must get licensed, but receive a temporary license in the interim so they can immediately begin caring for the child.

Safety, Outcomes and Oversight

KVC Kansas is committed to ensuring the safety of each child and family it serves. As one example of how it improves child wellbeing, KVC Kansas integrated trauma-informed care into its work. This involved training more than 90% of its child welfare staff and nearly 70% of its foster parents. Child Trends and the Annie E. Casey Foundation conducted a five-year study of this work and found significant benefits for children. Children who received Trauma Systems Therapy showed improved functioning and a greater ability to control their behaviors and emotions, according to the study. These same children also experienced greater placement stability and fewer moves while in care. Learn more.

KVC Kansas operates with transparency and with significant oversight and monitoring, both external and internal. Numerous auditing activities and/or forums for monitoring, oversight and feedback occur throughout each year. Some of these external audits/forums include:

  • State audits:
    • DCF Administrative Reviews
    • DCF Case File Reads
    • DCF Audit Services
    • DCF Licensing Audit
  • Federal Children and Family Services Reviews
  • Monthly Regional DCF/Contractor leadership meetings
  • Annual private CPA firm system-wide financial audit
  • Unannounced Joint Commission national accrediting body survey
  • Quarterly Community Advisory Board meetings
  • Quarterly Foster Parent Advisory Board meetings
  • Monthly Judges’ meetings in most jurisdictions
  • Quarterly Subcontractor meetings with SFA
  • Permanency Advisory Committees to ensure contractor policy reflects DCF policy
  • Kansas Assessment Permanency Project meetings and
  • Monthly contract reconciliation reports

Staffing and Caseloads

KVC Kansas staff play a critical role in protecting children, strengthening families and coordinating services to achieve each child’s case plan goal. KVC staff must be highly-trained, caring and adequately supported to provide the quality, effective services each child and family deserves.

The state of Kansas requires no more than 30 children per licensed worker. KVC is significantly lower – an average of 23 children per caseworker across all of the KVC offices. Each of those licensed workers is supported by one or more unlicensed family support workers.

One of KVC’s strategic focus areas is Making KVC a Great Place to Work. KVC has solicited staff feedback from all parts of the organization and implemented dozens of ideas to improve engagement. This has paid off as KVC’s retention rate has increased dramatically in the last year. Still, there is always room to improve and provide better training and support to staff as social work is a demanding and difficult field.

Conclusion

KVC operates with transparency and welcomes review of its work and outcomes. KVC is proud of its strong 20+ year track record of working with different Kansas administrations and officials. The best way to address foster care challenges is to increase prevention of child abuse and neglect and strengthen families by ensuring adequate community-based supports.

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Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to reflect that the relative caregiver reimbursement rate of $12 per day is for licensed relative caregivers. Relative caregivers who become licensed to care for only their relatives (such as grandchildren, nieces and nephews, etc.) can go through a quicker licensing process that does not include the training class. Relatives who become licensed to care for other children in foster care are eligible to receive the standard foster family reimbursement rate. The article has also been updated to state that non-related kinship caregivers of children in foster care (such as teachers, pastors, coaches, neighbors or other adults familiar to the child) must get licensed, but receive a temporary license in the interim so they can immediately begin caring for the child.