Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Senate Panel Examines Voluntary Alternative to Foster Care

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Senate Panel Examines Voluntary Alternative to Foster Care

Article excerpt

Television advertisements about children in need of a safer home have tugged on the heart of Marc Rhoades, an empty-nest parent in Newton and member of the Kansas House.

"For the past couple years," he said, "I've often been moved to emotion when viewing commercials about adoption and foster care. But, in my heart, I've known that this kind of more permanent move wasn't in my future. What to do?"

The Republican told members of the Senate Judiciary Committee that he may have found an answer in an organization, Safe Families for Children, established in Chicago during 2003. The program's adult volunteers provide temporary homes to children when families tumble into crisis. It's a faith-based alternative to the state-run foster care system.

To support expansion of the Safe Families network in Kansas, a bill pending before the committee would revise state law to allow a parent or legal guardian to execute a power of attorney granting another caregiver or family physical custody of a child or children for up to one year. State law in Kansas limits such transactions to 90 days.

Provisions of Senate Bill 148 provide Safe Families homes an exemption from all laws, rules or regulations related to licensing or regulating foster homes. Oversight would require an budget increase of $115,000 annually for the Kansas Department for Children and Families.

Safe Families, through the group Lifeline Children's Services, has operated for several years in Shawnee County. Common sources of crisis are homelessness, mental health instability, hospitalization, pregnancy, lack of child care and domestic violence, said Sue Smith, who has led the program in Topeka.

"In order for Safe Families to function and fulfill its mission," Smith said, "the local church and faith community is the engine. …

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