Youth Stable Placements, Improvement in Access to Mental Health Services

Report Shows Kansas Foster Youth Remain in Stable Placements, Improvement in Access to Mental Health Services

Neutral party releases second McIntyre Settlement status report


TOPEKA – Kansas foster children have more stable placements and have quicker access to mental health services, according to the second report from the Neutral Third Party in the McIntyre class action lawsuit settlement.

“My administration continues to make progress in protecting Kansas kids in the foster care system and repairing the state’s child welfare system,” Governor Laura Kelly said. “The latest Neutral Report shows we continue to ensure kids are in stable placements and are improving how many foster youth receive necessary mental health screenings and timely access to services. But this report also makes clear that, in spite of all of our efforts, there’s much more work to be done. I am encouraged by the steps we’ve taken in 2023 to decrease temporary overnight placements and instances of kids staying in offices, but clearly the legislature and I must dig deeper, make more targeted investments, and come up with solutions that work.”

The McIntyre class action lawsuit was filed in 2018 under the Colyer Administration by Kansas Appleseed, Children’s Rights, and the National Center for Youth Law against the Governor, Kansas Department for Children and Families, Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services, and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. The Governor was later dismissed from the case.

The parties agreed to a settlement in 2020. The settlement was structured to ensure Kansas would achieve substantial progress and compliance in key performance areas over a multi-year period. Performance areas include accountability, reporting and implementation, practice improvements and outcomes. The settlement recognizes that the outcomes and practice improvements will not all be accomplished in one year. Outcome goals were set for a three-to-four-year period.

This second report covers data from calendar year 2022.

The new report shows Kansas continued to show progress in placement stability. For the second year in a row, DCF met the requirement to increase stable placements for children in custody. In a case review, the Neutral found that 91% of children and youth whose case were reviewed were in stable placements in 2022. That’s a 6% improvement over 2021.

Other highlights of the report include:

  • Nearly 98% of Family Foster Homes and nearly 100% of Non-Relative Kin and Licensed Kin homes followed licensing capacity standards in CY 2022.
  • In 2022, DCF improved the number of children and youth receiving mental health and trauma screens after initially entering care. The CY 2022 data shows 43% of case reviews showed a screening was conducted, an improvement from 34% in CY 2021.
  • Case reads also showed DCF has improved in addressing the mental and behavioral health needs of children and youth in custody. The report shows that 70% of cases reads showed children and youth receiving timely mental health services, an increase of 5% over CY 2021.

“The report affirms our commitment to the continuous improvement of the Kansas child welfare system,” DCF Secretary Laura Howard said. “Several factors including implementing a youth statewide mobile crisis service, adding therapeutic foster homes as a level of service, and working with the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services to implement Certified Community Behavioral Health Centers (CCBHCs) are responsible for the steady improvement of these mental health outcomes. We expect to see this number continue to improve as more CCBHCs come online and more families across the state become aware of the youth mobile crisis service.”

The report also found the state has more work to do to decrease both temporary overnight placements, instances of youth staying in offices, and night-to-night placements. Since the time period covered in the report, DCF has made significant strides in reducing those numbers thanks to new innovations already implemented and significant targeted investment from the governor and the Kansas legislature in this year’s budget. The agency implemented the Failure to Place network, which ensures there is a stand-by bed for youth who may otherwise be forced to stay in an office because of a lack of available placements. This has already led to a more than 50% reduction in the number of youth staying in a contractor’s office in CY 2023.

DCF is also encouraged by the recent investment of $6 million in the state’s new therapeutic foster home system, which will increase the stability of placements and improve mental health outcomes. Once fully implemented in partnership with the Children’s Alliance, children with high needs will fully realize the benefits of a therapeutic foster care option supporting families serving these youth.

The agency also notes the Neutral’s continued concerns related to data access and validation. The agency currently has a Request for Proposal for a Comprehensive Child Welfare Information System (CCWIS) in the review stage. The RFP is designed to allow for separate parts of the system to be implemented sequentially, allowing the state to realize the benefits prior to the system becoming fully operational.

Those interested in the full CY 22 report can access it via the Center for the Study of Social Policy website.


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