The Senate passed a bill Wednesday aiming to create quicker response times in reporting missing foster children in Kansas.
“Basically, what the bill does is put in a process and notification of children under foster care that have gone missing,” said Sen. Gene Suellentrop, R-Wichita, “so that we as legislators know the circumstance and frequency and/or to some degree perhaps a general idea of who these people are so that we can better respond as well.”
Senate Bill 162 requires foster care case management contractors to notify the Kansas Department for Children and Families about a missing child within the first 24 hours of a disappearance. DCF then is required to notify the governor, Legislature and local newspaper about a disappearance.
In a proactive move this week, the agency began posting information to its website daily about missing children.
Under previous administrations, the department came under fire for under-reporting child deaths and for management of the state-run foster care system that left some kids sleeping in office spaces.
Under the proposed legislation, a $500 penalty accrues each day a foster care contractor fails to report a missing child to DCF, said Sen. Molly Baumgardner, R-Louisburg.
Baumgardner discussed a situation in which three siblings went missing from Tonganoxie in 2017 without DCF’s knowledge.
“There were all kinds of failures,” Baumgardner said.
Gov. Laura Kelly announced Monday that DCF will publish daily records of missing and runaway children, which includes the name, age, number of days missing and status of each child on the website. DCF also will send demographic information to the news media outlet in the county of the missing child.
“Since 2017 when I raised the alarm about missing foster children, I have been working to find ways to improve transparency in DCF and shine a light on this issue,” Kelly said. “The additional transparency can only help to educate the public and legislators about the processes used by DCF to locate these vulnerable citizens.”
Committees that deal with juvenile justice also will receive information about a missing or runaway child.
The proposed legislation, which passed the Senate on a 40-0 vote, would mandate the reports for any child who spends a night outside a foster care home.
Under provisions added by Sen. Barbara Bollier, D-Mission Hills, while the bill was still in committee, the reports would have to specify whether child welfare task force recommendations were followed and why a child was forced to sleep in an office.
“I am in support of this bill and appreciate the governor also standing up in favor,” Bollier said.
This article was originally published on The Topeka Capital-Journal website, here.
Paid for by The Senate Democrats Committee, Kerry Gooch, Treasurer.