Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer will name the director of a children’s shelter to lead the state’s troubled Department for Children and Families.
Colyer selected Gina Meier-Hummel, director of the Children’s Shelter in Lawrence, according to state-required financial disclosure forms. Colyer spokesman Kendall Marr confirmed the selection and said Gov. Sam Brownback had delegated the decision to Colyer.
Meier-Hummel has been involved in Kansas’s social service system for decades. She joined the Children’s Shelter in 2015. Before that, she served in positions within the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services and DCF.
Meier-Hummel also serves on a child welfare task force examining the foster care system.
She spent more than a decade working at KVC, one of the state’s foster care contractors. DCF oversees the foster care system in Kansas.
Colyer will formally unveil his pick Wednesday. It will be subject to Senate confirmation.
Current DCF Secretary Phyllis Gilmore announced her departure earlier this month and is officially leaving at the start of December.
Meier-Hummel filed a disclosure of substantial interests form on Oct. 19. The form lists her major financial interests.
Under agency and position, she lists DCF and secretary. A search shows she is the first DCF-related substantial interest filing in several months.
Reached by phone, Meier-Hummel said she wasn’t in a position to answer questions.
Meier-Hummel would take over an agency under scrutiny. Lawmakers have expressed dismay at revelations that dozens of foster children are missing and that some sleep in offices because homes cannot be found. Multiple state audits have faulted the agency for shortcomings.
Gilmore has faced concerns about the foster care system and other agency responsibilities under her watch. A recent investigation by The Kansas City Star described a lack of transparency inside DCF, with a former employee saying she had been instructed to shred notes taken in meetings where a child’s death was discussed.
Rep. Jarrod Ousley, an Overland Park Democrat who serves on the child welfare task force with Meier-Hummel, said he had heard she would be picked for the job. He said the incoming secretary appears to be on a first-name basis with most of the agency officials or contractors that appear before the panel.
“She seems to know a lot of the internal department folks. … Is she going to be a continuation of the Phyllis Gilmore legacy or is she knowledgeable enough to turn some things around?” Ousley said, adding that he doesn’t know Meier-Hummel well enough to make that judgment.
Ousley has been an outspoken critic of the agency and said the new secretary will face a steep challenge in improving DCF’s performance.
“It’s a mess. We discovered a lot of obvious problems and I’ll work with whoever tries to fix them,” Ousley said. “I hope she ate her Wheaties because you’ve got your work cut out for you. Anybody’s that named, they’ve got their work cut out for them.”
Sen. Barbara Bollier, a Mission Hills Republican and member of the task force, said Meier-Hummel would do an excellent job.
“As a member of the task force, she’s been asking very probing and deep, appropriate questions,” she said. “And so I have full confidence that she’ll do an excellent job.”