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KVC Kansas

Your Complete Guide to the 2024 Kansas Child Welfare System Changes

2024 kansas child welfare system changes

The Kansas child welfare system is going through several changes to better serve children and families in need in 2024. This article is intended to detail all these changes and show you the positive direction Kansas is moving in. The 2024 Kansas child welfare system changes affect a few broad categories including foster care as well as family preservation and foster care prevention services. 

While KVC Kansas is a private, nonprofit organization and does not speak for the state, we put together this article to share information and answer questions. We want to make sure everyone — youth, families served by the child welfare system, legislators, judges, attorneys, child welfare professionals, foster families, volunteers, advocates and others — understand what’s changing and why. After all, thousands of children and families depend on us to work together and provide the best possible support! 

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As Prevention Service Access Increases, Number of Children in Foster Care Decreases

As foster care prevention and family preservation services become more accessible to families of all backgrounds, fewer children are entering Kansas foster care. These programs support families in their homes and communities, helping them stay safely together. These services are crucial for keeping families united and preventing the stress and trauma of separating children from their parents. 

Importance of Prevention Services

Foster parents with childFoster care prevention services are best for kids and families when there’s no immediate safety threat, and they’re also cost-effective. On average, high-quality prevention services cost $5,000 to $10,000 per family, compared to $135,936 per family for a year of foster care (assuming three children). Prevention services create better outcomes for families with an additional cost savings benefit. 

At KVC Kansas, we are pleased to see state leaders focus on prevention, but more funding is needed to provide services to all families at risk of entering foster care. Increased support for mental health services, substance use treatment, and parent skill-building will help keep more children safely at home. 

How Many Children Are Currently in Kansas Foster Care?

Over the last several years, Kansas has safely reduced the number of children in foster care to fewer than 6,000. In fact, as of May 15, 2024, there were 5,945 children in Kansas foster care. This is the lowest level since 2014. This is due to the leadership and prevention efforts of Kansas Department for Children and Families Sec. Laura Howard and her team, as well as Kansas Governor Laura Kelly. 

Additionally, an overwhelming majority of children in Kansas foster care now live with relatives or foster families, which is proven better for children’s development and wellbeing than growing up in residential facilities. Kansas’ kinship care rate is also very high at nearly 50%. Most states in our country aspire to be like Kansas in these outcomes.

Even as the Number of Children in Foster Care Decreases, the Need for Foster Parents Grows Even Greater

mom and daughter laughing while on a walkDespite the decreasing number of children in foster care, Kansas urgently needs more compassionate adults and families to become foster parents. And while we serve youth of all ages, there is a particular need for loving foster families willing to care for youth aged 10 and older. 

We also need foster families in rural areas, where distances can feel vast, and connections are everything. Having more foster families nearby can make all the difference. When more foster families open their hearts and homes to children and families in need, kids can stay in their same schools, keep up with their friends, and hold onto the comforting familiarity of their communities. 

Additionally, children in foster care come from diverse backgrounds, cultures and identities, each with their own unique needs and experiences. That’s why having diverse foster parents is so important. We want to make sure that every child finds a nurturing environment where their cultural, religious, and overall identities are not only respected but celebrated. So, whether you’re single, married, young, older, identify as straight or LGBTQIA+, you can make an incredible impact as a foster parent. 

KVC Kansas proudly trains and supports hundreds of foster families across central and eastern Kansas. If you’d like to learn more about the life-changing impact you can make for children, families and your community, contact us today! Visit kvckansas.org/foster to learn more about the process and requirements. You can also submit this form to speak directly with our team and ask any questions you may have. 

Learn more about foster parenting

2024 Kansas Child Welfare System Changes

First, it’s important to know that Kansas has four main categories of services that it relies on private, nonprofit organizations to provide. Those are: 

  1. Foster Care Case Management, Reunification & Adoption – Kansas is unique in that it uses private agencies to handle case management for children in foster care. As the only organization that has provided these services for 27 years consecutively, we at KVC Kansas can share that this approach helped make Kansas a national leader in child welfare outcomes. The case management contract provides support to children in foster care and their families. It does not include responsibility for recruiting, training and support foster families (more on that below). 
  2. Family Preservation – This is in-home support for vulnerable families to safely prevent the need for foster care. There are six family preservation contracts covering six regions of the state. 
  3. Foster Care Prevention Services – The state of Kansas relies on many nonprofit organizations to provide foster care prevention services, ensuring families stay safely together while addressing any challenges a family may be experiencing. These nonprofits offer essential support, such as mental health services, substance use treatment and parenting skill-building. Many foster care prevention services are funded through the Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA), although additional services receive funding from various other sources. The FFPSA is a federal law enacted to provide funding for preventive services and programs that help keep children safely with their families and out of foster care. 
  4. Adoption Exchange – Kansas also contracts with a nonprofit organization to maintain AdoptKSKids.org, the database of children who are legally free for adoption and seeking loving forever families. While only one organization is responsible for the database, many organizations, including KVC Kansas, help connect children with loving, supportive families. 

Now that you understand how the state structures the contracts and awards for these services, here is the latest update on the providers and areas they will serve beginning July 1, 2024. 

Changes in Kansas Foster Care Providers: Foster Care Case Management, Reunification, Independent Living & Adoption

The Kansas foster care providers as of July 1, 2024 will be: 

  • Area 1 (Western KS)—Saint Francis Ministries (no change) 
  • Area 2 (North Central KS)—Saint Francis Ministries (no change) 
  • Area 3 (Topeka & North) —KVC Kansas (no change) 
  • Area 4 (Southeastern KS) —TFI Family Services (no change) 
  • Area 5 (Kansas City, KS Area)—Cornerstones of Care (no change) 
  • Area 6 (Olathe & Lawrence Areas) —KVC Kansas (no change) 
  • Area 7 (Wichita Area) — EmberHope Connections (previously held by St. Francis Ministries) 
  • Area 8 (South Central KS)—TFI Family Services (no change) 

You can view each of the five providers’ websites here: KVC Kansas, Cornerstones of Care, Saint Francis MinistriesTFI Family Services, and EmberHope Youthville.

Here’s a map of the areas and providers:

Kansas foster care case management providers

Transforming Foster Care for Kansas Teens: SOUL Family Legal Permanency Option

SOUL Family Kansas

Kansas is leading the way with a new, life-changing permanency option, becoming the first state in the nation to pass legislation recognizing SOUL Family as a legal permanency option. SOUL — which stands for sup­port, oppor­tu­ni­ty, uni­ty, and legal rela­tion­ships — will transform the lives of young peo­ple ages 16 and old­er as they move from fos­ter care to adult­hood. This option was designed by and for youth in foster care and will allow youth to exit foster care with a loving connection while maintaining the benefits of foster care resources and support even as they reach the legal age of 18, leading to overall better outcomes into adulthood.

On April 15th, 2024, Governor Laura Kelly signed this historic bill into law. Soon, child welfare professionals at KVC, and across Kansas, will partner with teens in foster care to establish their SOUL Families while helping them develop the skills to create and sustain meaningful connections. Discover more about SOUL Family and its life-changing impact. 

Foster Family Training & Support

how to decide to foster parent

This is perhaps the most confusing aspect of the Kansas child welfare system. Responsibility for children in foster care (case management contractor) and responsibility for foster families (what’s called a Child Placing Agency or CPA) are two separate roles. A child in foster care may be served by the same nonprofit for both functions, but each function is a separate contract with different requirements. 

There are many child placing agencies in Kansas beyond the providers listed above. KVC Kansas is a licensed child placing agency. In fact, KVC Kansas trains and supports hundreds of foster families across eastern and central Kansas. You can learn more about becoming a Kansas foster parent and all the training and support KVC provides here. 

When there is a change to the foster care contractor in an area, foster families often think they must change their supporting agency to the new foster care provider in that area. This is not true.  

Foster family support is not based on state contracts; therefore, families are free to choose support from any child placing agency while continuing to provide homes to children in foster care from any foster care contractor. KVC Kansas continues to recruit, train and support foster families across Kansas. 

Learn more about foster parenting

Changes in Kansas Family Preservation Service Providers

case manager

In December 2023, Kansas Department for Children and Families (DCF) announced the providers for family preservation services in Kansas, choosing to renew the contracts of the three current providers, DCCCA, Cornerstones of Care and TFI. View the image below to see the catchment areas and providers, and click here for more information. 

The newly awarded Family Preservation Services contracts take effect July 1, 2024, through June 30, 2028. These contracts also have an optional renewal for one additional 24-month period. Family Preservation Services are on a continuum of high-to-low intensity through the time the services are provided. Family Preservation focuses on families who have one or more children at risk for out-of-home placement or who will be at-risk of out-of-home placement after birth. 

Additionally, in this new contract period, the Tier 1 and Tier 2 referral system will be eliminated. When a referral is made for Family Preservation Services, the provider working alongside the family will assess and determine the services that will best meet the family’s needs. 

family preservation DCF regions and catchment areas

Foster Care Prevention Services

foster familyKansas offers a wide selection of services aimed at strengthening families so they can safely stay in their homes and communities, thus preventing the need for foster care. Under the Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA), Kansas has implemented many programs to provide comprehensive support to families facing challenges.

DCF offers a valuable guide of these prevention services on their website. The website provides detailed information about the programs available in your area and how they can benefit your family. Click the link for your area below. The information is available in English and Spanish. 

In addition to the Family First Prevention Services Act programs, families in Kansas can receive support through programs offered by Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), including 2Generation programs. These programs are designed to provide financial assistance and other resources to help families achieve stability and success. 

KVC Kansas’ Foster Care Prevention Services

Furthermore, organizations like KVC Kansas offer a range of prevention and preservation services tailored to meet the unique needs of families. Some of these services include (find the full list here): 

Strengthening Families Program

Strengthening Families Program Kansas

Strengthening Families Program (SFP) provides a path toward hope and healing for Kansas families. This program offers free parenting and family strengthening classes aimed at enhancing family relationships and promoting positive parenting practices. Depending on its implementation, the Strengthening Families Program acts as an effective family preservation and reunification service. 

Every week for three and a half months, KVC’s Strengthening Families Program brings families who need extra support and community together for a meal and skill building. Families learn healthy communication skills, how to build strong bonds, how to prevent or address substance use, how to set child behavior expectations, and much more. 

Learn more about KVC’s Strengthening Families Program. 

Learn more about KVC's Strengthening Families Program

2Generation Program: Community Based Services for Families

KVC Kansas provides community-based services to help families in Eastern Kansas learn skills and access resources that can lift them out of poverty.

KVC Kansas’ 2Generation Program strives to end the cycle of poverty across generations by working with children and their caregivers. We provide personalized individual, virtual, and group interventions, along with vital resources and referrals, to tackle the root causes of poverty. Families participate in a range of services tailored to improve their health, social connections, parenting skills, housing and economic stability. 

Learn more about KVC’s 2Generation Program. 

Learn more about KVC's 2Generation program

Healthy Families America: Home Visiting Program

healthy families america home visiting kansas

KVC Kansas’ Healthy Families America (HFA) program helps families with family-focused and empathetic home visiting services. These services focus on supporting pregnant parents and young families to promote healthy pregnancies, positive parenting, and child development. These services ultimately prevent child abuse and neglect, while promoting child and family wellbeing. 

This program is strength-based, culturally sensitive, family-centered and trauma-informed. We provide these services throughout northeastern Kansas and accept referrals from the Kansas Department for Children and Families. 

Learn more about Healthy Families America. 

Learn more about KVC's home visiting services

Adoption Exchange

national adoption day 2023Foster Adopt Connect is currently the contracted provider of Kansas’ adoption exchange, AdoptKSKids.org. However, because KVC Kansas is responsible for so many children in foster care who urgently need adoptive families, we also maintain a KVC adoption website here. We frequently share photos of children waiting for an adoptive family on our social media accounts including the KVC Kansas Facebook page and our @KVCkids Instagram account.

That Covers the Big 2024 Kansas Child Welfare System Changes

Wow, that was a lot of information! It’s very likely that you still have questions about how the 2024 Kansas child welfare system changes impact you specifically. If you do, we would love to help answer them. Please contact us by emailing kansas@kvc.org or calling us at (913) 499-8100. 

While there are many changes occurring within the Kansas child welfare system in 2024, the goal remains the same. It’s still to strengthen Kansas children and families, and to focus on safely preventing foster care so we can keep more children safely at home with their families. And those efforts are paying off because Kansas currently has the lowest number of children in foster care since 2014. 

How You Can Help Children and Families in Need

We need everyone to play a role in strengthening children and families. Get inspired to help and advocate for others by watching these family success stories. You can change children and families’ lives by becoming a foster parent or adopting a child or sibling group from foster care. If you’re unable to foster or adopt, you can make a huge difference by donating online, donating school supplies or holiday gifts, or by joining the KVC team. Thank you for caring about children and families in our state! 

Change a child's life forever. Learn about becoming a foster parent >