Kansas Department for Children and Families Secretary Phyllis Gilmore on Wednesday said her agency has not proposed – and is not expecting any – cuts in services in the fiscal year that begins July 1, 2013.
“There is no plan for any reduction in services,” Gilmore said, addressing members of the Kansas Mental Health Coalition.
Gilmore said the department had complied with Gov. Sam Brownback’s directive that state agencies propose 10 percent cuts in their fiscal 2014 spending as part of the administration's ongoing budget planning process.
But she said that DCF’s proposed 10 percent cuts would come from trimming the department’s operational and administrative costs.
“The 10 percent that we had to suggest how we could live without, which we hope we don’t have to live without – it is not in direct services to clients,” Gillmore said.
Can't discuss details
Gilmore did not say which of the department’s operational or administrative functions likely would be affected by the proposed reductions.
KHI News Service later asked Angela de Rocha, a spokeswoman for DCF, to clarify the secretary’s comments.
De Rocha replied: “I cannot and will not discuss the FY 14 budget proposal, but I can tell you that the DCF reductions in expenditures will not come from services to clients.”
According to state budget documents, DCF is expected to spend about $290 million in state general fund dollars in the current fiscal year with anticipated operational costs accounting for $94.6 million.
The department’s operational costs include those associated with running 35 area and local offices throughout the state.
Gilmore’s predecessor, Rob Siedlecki, generated considerable controversy when he announced in July 2011 that agency, then called the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services, would close nine local offices as part of cost cutting measures.
Four of the offices – Lawrence, Fort Scott, McPherson, and Pratt – were allowed to remain open after local units of governments agreed to cover the rent, utilities, copy machine rentals and other overhead costs.
The offices in Coffeyville, Garnett, Lyndon, Marysville and Wellington were closed.
Siedlecki, a former as chief of staff for the Florida Department of Health, resigned his SRS position in December 2011.
In July this year, SRS and the Kansas Department on Aging were reorganized. Oversight of services for the disabled and the state hospitals were moved from SRS to the new Department for Aging and Disability Services.
DCF was put in charge of child and adult protection services, adoption services, foster care support, child support enforcement, welfare and food assistance programs and vocational rehabilitation.
Gilmore also told the mental health coalition that since October, DCF has hired 20 social workers as part of an initiative aimed at helping at-risk families avoid having their children placed in foster care.
“We want to safely reduce the number of children in our care,” she said. “Kansas is very high in the number of children in out-of-home placements. We’re the second highest in country. That is not a statistic that we are proud of.”
Afterward, several coalition members said they doubted the ranking.
National data compiled by the Anne E. Casey Foundation show that in 2010 at least six states – Alaska, Iowa, Nebraska, Oregon, Rhode Island, and West Virginia - had proportionately more children in foster care Kansas.
Currently, Kansas has about 6,000 children in foster care.
Coalition members agreed, however, that the goal of reducing the number of children in state custody was laudable.
“Anytime we can safely reduce the numbers of children in foster care – that’s always been the goal,” said Bruce Linhos, executive director with the Children’s Coalition of Kansas.
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