Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Wichita Branch NAACP Legal Redress Chair to meet with Kansas SRS Secretary Don Jordon

The Wichita Branch NAACP Legal Redress department is meeting with Kansas SRS Secretary Don Jordon this morning to discuss the contentious issue of child placements with the Kansas and Sedgwick County. While it is considered a "best practice" that children removed from their homes be placed within their own extended families, children removed from their homes in Kansas and Sedgwick County in particular, are far more likely to be permanently placed within foster homes or adopted out to non-related families. In fact, of the 356 African American children from Sedgwick County who are under the care of the State, 47% are sent outside of the county to foster homes in more rural areas of Kansas, most often not of the same cultural background. And of the 147 Bi-Racial children from Sedgwick County, 31% are sent outside of the county to foster homes in more rural areas of Kansas, most often not of the same cultural background.

The Wichita Branch began working on this issue several years ago with a series of local meetings with SRS office personnel. During those meetings, we were told that in order to have a real impact on the system, we would need to work with Youthville (a Private organization contracted by the State to manage child placements on behalf of SRS). We had a series of meetings with Youthville, during which we were told that in order to have a real impact, we would need to speak directly with the Judges who handle custody and placements. We then had a series of meetings with SRS, Youthville, DCCA, & the Judges who handles custody and placements. And while at each step, all seemed genuinely interested in addressing the issue, the situation has clearly not improved.

And so today, we are beginning a new two-pronged approach to dealing with the issue of SRS and child-placements. *First off, Mary Dean; the Wichita NAACP Legal Redress Chair, will take our issues and complaints directly to Secretary Jordon. While we appreciate the effort of those from the local SRS office, it is clear that if we are to effect change, we need to escalate the discussion to the Secretary and Governor's office. And *the second piece is that we will begin working on draft legislation that we intend to have introduced in the State Legislature next session that will change extended family placements from a "Best Practice" to a Legal Requirement unless there are definitive and discernible aggravating circumstances which would preclude such a placement. And in assembling and introducing such legislation, we will be calling upon the many advocates and child placement workers who have expressed frustration with the current system to come on aboard and support this effort.

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Did you know that if Youthville placed all of the African American children within the existing African American foster homes, each home would have 12 foster children? If you or someone you know in the Sedgwick County area may be interested in becoming a foster parent, please contact Youthville at 800.593.1950, ext 8319



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