Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Brownback Administration Launches Quest for More Foster Parents

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Brownback Administration Launches Quest for More Foster Parents

Article excerpt

The record-high number of foster care children in Kansas led to a renewed call by the administration of Gov. Sam Brownback for expansion of the state's network of foster parents, especially for care of youth with physical or behavioral challenges.

"We want every child to have a loving environment to grow up in," said first lady Mary Brownback, who spoke at the Capitol to mark Foster Care Month. "There is a great need in the foster care system."

The Kansas Department for Children and Families has jurisdiction over 6,685 children in foster care who were removed from a family in crisis. Out-of-home placements in Kansas have climbed from 6,167 in June 2014, 5,303 in June 2012 and 5,227 in June 2010.

The number in foster care has increased during Brownback's tenure as governor, but DCF officials say the issue has been a slowdown in movement of youth out of foster care rather than escalation of enrollment in the system. In the past, DCF also attributed the rise of youth in foster care to better reporting of child neglect and abuse.

Shannon Cotsoradis, president and chief executive officer of Kansas Action for Children, said work by Kansas lawmakers to narrow eligibility for government-funded public assistance and to weaken the overall safety net for at-risk families fueled movement of children to foster care.

"It isn't unlike all of the other challenges we are seeing as we put more pressure on Kansas' most economically fragile families," Cotsoradis said in an interview. "Policy changes in recent years have resulted in children and families losing access to the state safety net at alarming rates."

She said the political assault on family assistance was exacerbating circumstances leading to children being placed in foster care.

Kansas has 2,750 licensed foster care homes, but DCF's objective is to develop a deeper pool, sufficient for each child to have an immediate foster family match within the child's home community. …

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