The Kansas Department for Children and Families disputes the way an area organization represents statistics on the outcome of children who have been removed from their homes, but the organization's leader said she stands by the interpretation.
The discrepancy arose after FosterAdopt Connect's Journey Home tour, which gave policymakers and philanthropists the opportunity to understand the trauma youths face when they are removed from their parents. Each participant was given a card that told a true story about a child.
At the end of the tour, Heather Saak, with FosterAdopt Connect, revealed the outcome of the children featured on the cards. She said 61 percent of children in Kansas are reunified with their birth family. Nearly 20 percent are adopted while 10 percent age out of the system. Another five percent receive guardianship, which lasts until they are 18. Four percent fell into an other category. They may have gone missing, died or ended up in jail.
Taylor Forrest, DCF spokeswoman, said the last figure was misleading because only 1 percent fall into the other category. That category included children who were living with a relative, went missing or died. In fiscal year 2018, the breakdown of the 1 percent included 24 children who were living with a relative, 10 youths who ran away and two who died.
Three percent were transferred out, meaning they were transferred to the Tribal Authority or the Kansas Department of Corrections.
"It is deeply disturbing to have an inflammatory statement made by an agency that holds itself out to be a child welfare provider and advocate," Forrest said in a statement. "Furthermore, Secretary Gina Meier-Hummel, her leadership team and staff have made major forward movement in improving the child welfare system in Kansas. Therefore, such incorrect statements, in light of progress, are not helpful."
DCF's figures also show 60 percent were reunified and 6 percent received guardianship, according to Forrest.
However, Lori Ross, founder and president of FosterAdopt Connect, said the organization stands by its statement. Ross said the information was pulled from DCF's website and acknowledged that the other and transfer categories were combined.
"Because Journey Home was for members of the general public with very little previous understanding of foster care, some categories were lumped together," she said.
Ross said a DCF official was at the presentation and could have taken exception to the information.
"DCF has never been excited to partner with FosterAdopt Connect at the state level, which is likely because we are an advocacy agency, and we do hold them accountable for performance issues that negatively impact children," Ross said. "We do this in a public way. And we have not ever been nor will we ever be bullied by any agency or person into silence."