Major Issues in the Kansas Foster Care System

The foster care system has major problems in every state. It is largely viewed as a broken system that does not offer safety to victimized children and, in many cases, exposes vulnerable children to even greater harm in the form of sexual abuse. Unfortunately, the number of children currently in the foster care system in Kansas is large and growing at a rapid pace. Identifying the major issues in the system can help spread awareness and – ideally – lead to solutions. 

High Numbers of Children Entering the System

There are too many children in the Kansas foster care system. The number of children being taken out of their homes in Kansas has seen a consistent upward trend since 2012. This has been a universal issue around the country, but Kansas has seen a significantly greater increase than other states. When compared to the rest of the country, Kansas’s ratio of the number of children in the system per 1,000 in the state is almost double: 10.2 in Kansas compared to 5.7 nationally.

As of June 2021, there were 6,845 youth in the foster care system (known as out-of-home placements) in Kansas. This is an increase of 1,819 children from a decade previously (2011). For the last several years, there has been an average annual increase in the number of out-of-home placements in Kansas of 7 percent. The increase in out-of-home placements in Kansas has come at a racially disproportionate rate. Based on the data available, Black children are about 75 percent more likely than White children to enter the Kansas foster care system.

Case reviews have suggested that the racial disparity in the child welfare system is due to the disproportionate needs of black children and families, racial bias, discrimination, a lack of resources, and geographic variance. Evidence shows that discrimination and racial bias play a significant role, especially in regard to a family’s contact with the foster care system. Research shows that community reporters are more likely to report Black families, and families of color are more likely to be investigated.

Children Are Staying in the System for Too Long

One of the issues that contribute to Kansas’s foster care system growing is that children are staying in the system too long. This makes the system much less stable, as it cannot continue to grow at this exponential rate without children being removed and either reunited with their families or adopted out.

Although reunification is the state’s goal when a child has been removed from his or her home, this is not always possible or safe for the child. When reunification is not possible, the best hope for the child is to be adopted. Unfortunately, adoption is expensive and comes with many obstacles that adoptive parents must overcome. This leads to many children getting stuck in the foster care system for long periods.

Instability and Lack of Permanency

The third major issue is that foster kids experience “dangerously high instability in their placements,” according to Strengthen Families Rebuild Hope. Children in the system are being moved to different homes approximately once every three months, on average. This is almost 2.5 times more than the standard rate. 

Moving this much makes it impossible for the child to adjust, put down roots, join a community and thrive. Instability leads to an increased risk of anxiety, depression, other mental health issues, behavioral problems, substance abuse disorders, attachment disorders and risky sexual behaviors. A lack of permanency also correlates to higher instances of children being placed in abusive foster homes

Sadly, an overcrowded system and understaffing at the state level in Kansas have led to child abuse report backlogs – meaning that children are remaining in abusive foster homes longer than they should without reports being investigated. This puts children at an immense risk of suffering serious harm in foster homes. If you or a loved one has experienced sexual abuse in the Kansas foster care system, contact DRZ Law for a free and confidential case review with a Kansas foster case child abuse attorney.

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