Kansas Creates New Agency to Lead Child Welfare, Juvenile Justice Services

Kansas Governor Laura Kelly. 

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly (D) announced yesterday she will create a new agency that houses child welfare and juvenile justice services at the state level.

The new Kansas Department of Human Services will include the Department of Children and Families (DCF), Department for Aging and Disability Services (KDADS) and the juvenile services division of the Department of Corrections (DOC).

Current Secretary Laura Howard, who was appointed by Kelly to oversee DCF and KDADS will now lead the new agency

“This is not going to be business as usual,” Howard said. “This combination of services gives us an opportunity to think differently about service delivery. We want Kansans to have seamless access to programs and services that will allow them to thrive. KDHS will be known for its innovation and willingness to work with community partners.”

Kansas has grappled with challenges in its foster care system, getting hit with a class-action lawsuit by the National Center for Youth Law, Children’s Rights and Kansas Appleseed prior to Kelly’s election. In October, Kelly asked to be removed from the suit, stating that she doesn’t actually oversee the state’s foster care system.

“While Governor Kelly generally oversees her appointees’ administration of the foster care system,” the motion filed in U.S. District Court of Kansas reads, “she does not enforce the statutes or regulations that control the Kansas foster care system.”

Kansas Appleseed Executive Director Jamie Reever said she sees the creation of the Kansas Department of Human Services as a step in the right direction for the state.

“Kansas Appleseed thinks there’s a lot of potential in the reorganization of these agencies,” Reever said. “There’s been a lot more awareness from various avenues and this shows she’s [Gov. Kelly] been listening.”

One of those avenues includes the six-part series Throwaway Kids published by the Kansas City Star in December highlighting the challenges youth in the state’s foster care system often face.

By combining the three agencies, children impacted by foster care, kinship care and juvenile justice will now be overseen by one agency.

“The creation of the new agency allows us to focus on prevention, so that we can get to these families before their situation becomes a crisis,” Kelly said. “The Department of Human Services will partner with communities across the state to create a single point of entry for those who need access to services for things like child welfare, mental health, economic support and juvenile justice.”

Gov. Kelly plans to submit the executive reorganization order early in the legislative session, which will take effect July 1, unless the Senate or House takes action against it.

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Kim Phagan-Hansel
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