DCF Announces RFI, Discusses Child Welfare Improvements and Budget Needs
TOPEKA – Today, Secretary Gina Meier-Hummel announced a Request for Information (RFI) surrounding the child welfare contracts, which are set to expire June 30, 2019. The RFI is to gather valued input from interested parties, stakeholders, community and contracted partners, families, foster parents, staff and the general public.
The public will have two options to share their thoughts about the contracts. Individuals will have the option to submit suggestions online until 5 p.m., April 27, at www.childwelfarecontractfeedback.dcf.ks.gov. A public comment meeting is also planned, from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday, April 24, at the DCF Administration Building, 555 S. Kansas Ave., Topeka. At the public meeting, attendees will have the opportunity to talk for two minutes each and share their input about general child welfare contract needs. No information regarding any specific child, case or judgment will be allowed in this Request for Information (RFI) process.
All feedback and information will be compiled, responded to and will be posted at a later date on the DCF website, without identifying information. This is the first RFI in regard to child welfare contracts in recent years, if ever.
“Since starting at the agency on Dec. 1, I have actively sought input from all interested parties and concerned citizens. I realize that I cannot strengthen and improve the child welfare system without first listening to those involved,” Secretary Meier-Hummel said. “This RFI process will allow us to listen and gather helpful suggestions to improve how we serve the children and families of Kansas.”
In addition to announcing the RFI, Secretary Meier-Hummel also announced a new effort to address social worker vacancies, DCF will create a new classification of staff—unlicensed child protection specialists. They will be required to have a four-year degree in a related field, such as psychology, sociology, etc., but they will not have to be licensed as social workers. They will, however, have to pass the same background checks and be required to complete the same training.
A Governor’s Budget Amendment will be introduced later this week to create a 5-percent pay differential for current staff performing child and adult protection service work. Additionally, the Governor’s Budget Amendment requests a three-year raise proposal for licensed protective service staff and supervisors.
“The agency is experiencing a critical shortage of social workers and has been actively working to address this issue for years, with little to no success. We are working to hire for competency and critical thinking, and this change is consistent with how this work is done across the country, according to national child welfare consultants,” Secretary Meier-Hummel said. “This is not my ideal situation, but the reality is the work we do is too important and we don’t have enough people doing this work and simply can’t recruit enough—we have tried.”
In January, Governor Jeff Colyer requested an additional $16.5 million to supplement DCF’s child welfare budget to address critical needs. An additional $24.3 million budget amendment is now being requested over the next three fiscal years, of which $5.4 million is for staff differential pay and raises over the next three years. The remainder pertains to proposed IT projects that are currently being considered by the State Office of Information Technology Services.
“I support Secretary Meier-Hummel as she works diligently to improve our child welfare system,” said Governor Colyer. “The changes she is making combined with this additional investment to bolster our child welfare staff will go a long way to help DCF accomplish its mission. These are our kids, we have to get this right because they deserve it. I am committed, as I know Secretary Meier-Hummel is, to improve the lives of Kansas children and families, and this will help us do just that.”
During today’s news conference, Secretary Meier-Hummel provided an update on the number children sleeping in offices, missing and runaway youth and current DCF efforts to end these practices. Additionally, she emphasized the need for additional resources to make necessary changes to the system.
“I want to thank and acknowledge all of our staff from every division. These public servants do fantastic work and make a difference in the lives of thousands of Kansas,” Secretary Meier-Hummel said. “As we wait for the legislature to weigh in on the budget enhancements and amendments, we will continue to move forward to improve the way we carry out child welfare services to the extent we can without additional resources. However, we believe these additional resources are critical to real reform.”