Sedgwick Co. Judge believes DCF needs more than extra funding to help children

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – The Department of Children and Families has lately been under scrutiny.

The latest numbers in Kansas indicate there are 77 missing children, and it has been widely shared that case workers are often times taking on more than they can handle.

Now, DCF may be getting some relief, $16 million.

“It is the hardest thing I have ever done and the most rewarding,” says Tonia Burke.

Tonia Burke has six children, two of them foster children.

She quickly realized from day one the journey would be a tough one, for her and the child’s biological family.

“DCF and the agencies give the parents a list of things to do. Good luck. Here it is.” explains Burke.

The case workers who connect the children to the families are constantly under pressure.

“These people are working anywhere from 50-60 hours a week,” says Sedgwick County Judge Kevin Smith.

The state budget is expected to be released this week.

It includes a plan to give DCF $16.5 million over the next two. $1.5 million of that for 20 additional child welfare staff and salary to fill the positions faster.

“The idea that DCF hiring 20 case workers for the entire state, it is difficult to imagine that taking care of the big issue that we have in being efficient with these cases and making sure that the kids are being protected,” Smith says.

Judge Smith says because of overburdened case workers adoption cases are drawn out an extra year before a child is in a permanent home.

He is cautiously optimistic about the extra funding.

“Until we focus on what we know works, I am not sure what kind of impact just throwing more money at the program will have.”

Burke adds that you don’t have to be a case worker to make a difference.

“When we as people look at the needs of our neighbors. Their brokeness, their hurting, or their needs and we start caring about their needs as much as we care about our needs, then things will changed,” she says.

The budget also includes 20 additional staff workers to help investigate and locate missing children in Kansas.


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