KSN investigates safeguards to keep foster children safe

GARDEN CITY, Kansas — After the Garden City Police Department arrested two people on suspicion of abuse against foster children, KSN is investigating what safeguards Kansas has put in place to keep foster children safe.

The Kansas Department for Children and Families says Glenda Griffin, 40, and Stacy Griffin, 47, like all foster parents in the state, underwent background checks when they became licensed foster parents.

KSN wanted to know what the exact procedures are to keep foster children safe. We sat down with representatives of Saint Francis Community Services Tuesday to learn more about the safeguards.

In Kansas, two programs are designed to protect foster children: the foster care home system and reintegration services. Per Kansas Department of Health and Environment regulation, both require monthly home visits.

“All of our foster care homes are assigned a foster care worker and those staff are responsible to go at least monthly out to the home and visit with the foster parents, as well as with the children, to see how they’re adjusting in the home,” said Patrice Claassen, the director of foster care homes for Saint Francis Community Services.

At that time, Claassen says, a visual inspection of the home environment is also conducted to ensure the site still meets regulations. These visits usually take about an hour, but could last longer.

“Also regularly with visits between the parents and the biological children, or between the children and the family, the biological family,” said Rachel Marsh, an attorney for Saint Francis Community Services.

“You’ll see bruising, you’ll see marks, you might see if the clothes aren’t being changed, if they’re coming to school dirty; all of those [can be] signs of abuse or neglect. They’re something that can be observed by a social worker who’s licensed to notice those things,” explained Marsh.

Reintegration services may also include requiring a social worker to transport foster children to and from medical appointments and/or therapy appointments, as needed.

Foster care workers are required to complete activity logs and summaries of those monthly reports, indicating what they have seen and how the child is adjusting to life in the foster home.

In order to remain foster parents in Kansas, foster parents’ license must be renewed each year, complete with a thorough site inspection.

“Sometimes there are blatant signs that you can tell, and sometimes there are no signs at all until a child may disclose to another party of incidents that have occurred,” said Claassen.

“What we know about children who have been abused or neglected is that they may have been sort of trained to be quiet about that, or they’ve learned not to talk,” said Marsh. “You do have a higher risk population when you’re talking about foster children, which is why it is necessary and helpful in the vast majority of situations that the providers in the system are having their eyes and ears on the child as often as we can,” she continued.

Regardless of the checks and balances put into place, experts tell KSN you cannot prevent everything.

“All of the regulations that we have in place probably wouldn’t prevent bad choices from being made,” said Claassen.

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