A legislative committee last week voted down a request for an audit into Kansas’ foster care system.
The request was brought by House Democrats in response to recent media coverage of cases where children have died either when placed in a foster care home or after being reunited with family members.
Democrats requested that the audit begin in August so that data would be available by the start of the next legislative session.
“If we wait any longer, I think we take the risk of losing another child, and that’s not a risk I’m willing to take,” said House Minority Leader Tom Burroughs, a Democrat from Kansas City, Kan.
The Legislative Post Audit Committee voted down the request 5-4, splitting along party lines. A second vote to keep the proposal alive so it could possibly be revisited passed with bipartisan support.
The cases that raised concern included the death of a 10-year-old boy in Wellington five days after the Department for Children and Families had been alerted to problems in the home. The boy’s mother has been charged with first degree murder.
Democrat Rep. Jim Ward of Wichita, who brought forth the request along with Rep. Ed Trimmer, a Winfield Democrat, argued that privatization of the foster care system in recent years had lessened state oversight and that an audit was needed to determine whether the the Department for Children and Families had ensured the safety of children in the system.
However, Republicans noted that the Kansas Judicial Council is already slated to review the foster care system and that a standing House committee also has oversight of the system.
Speaker Pro Tem Peggy Mast, an Emporia Republican, said that the audit would be “a lesson in futility.” Mast said that the foster care system is incredibly complex and has been grappling with many of the same issues for the past 30 years.