Kansas foster care system must be fixed

A recent op-ed argues that instead of investing in fixing our foster care system, more attention should be given to investing in stronger communities with services and supports to prevent kids from ever coming into foster care. It’s not an either-or proposition. We must invest in our communities, but turning our backs on the more than 7,500 kids in foster care would be unforgivable, let alone a violation of their human and legal rights.

The damage the Brownback era wrought on Kansas communities was devastating, and we are still feeling it today.

The Kansas foster care system is worse, shockingly so, than many other systems in this country. The rate of extreme instability is off the rails. Kids are regularly shuffled night to night, not knowing where they will sleep tomorrow. That’s the definition of homelessness. Our Kansas government is making children homeless while in the state’s care.

Kids in care are also denied needed mental health services. As a KVC clinical director recently put it, it’s not surprising youths run away when the streets seem to offer a better chance than what the state is providing.

Attorneys for Gov. Kelly filed a motion to have her dismissed from an ongoing federal lawsuit seeking accountability for the state’s horrific foster care problems, arguing she’s not sufficiently tied into the system to be legally responsible for its failures. Gov. Kelly publicly made fixing child welfare a top priority. This lawsuit — and system-wide reforms — must be part of that priority.

Tara D. Wallace, Topeka