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Head DCF official in Wichita resigns abruptly

Investigaton of complaints continues

By Dave Ranney | October 14, 2013

Diane Bidwell — who runs the DCF office in Wichita — and Rep. Forrest Knox in a photo posted on Twitter in early 2012 by the Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services.

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Diane Bidwell, the head of the Wichita regional office of the Kansas Department for Children and Families, resigned today.

She “…resigned voluntarily. Her last day (is) Friday,” Theresa Freed, a DCF spokesperson in Topeka, wrote in an email to KHI News Service.

DCF officials in Topeka earlier this month confirmed that they were investigating complaints that the Wichita office was steering children at risk of entering the foster care system toward FaithBuilders, a faith-based group that some parents said was undercutting their efforts to be reunited with their children.

The accusations prompted Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau, a Wichita Democrat, to ask DCF officials to investigate.

“All I can say at this time is that I don’t know if Ms. Bidwell’s resignation and my requesting an investigation were related to one another,” Faust-Goudeau said. “But if they weren’t, it sure seems like a major coincidence.”

Faust-Goudeau said she was contacted by a DCF investigator last week.

“All I know is that an investigation was, in fact, being conducted by the (DCF) secretary’s office,” she said. “And that there seemed to be a lot of interconnectedness between FaithBuilders and the DCF office here. As I legislator, I have to say I’d like to know more. All any of us want, I think, are facts.”

Attempts to reach Bidwell for comment were unsuccessful.

FaithBuilders has about 30 licensed foster homes in and around Wichita.

According to the group’s website, its mission is “…to be the hands and feet of Jesus to children and families in crisis here in our community. Our goal is to honor God’s desire that we serve the least of these.”

Bidwell’s resignation was the subject of an internal memo circulated shortly after 2 p.m., even though DCF offices were closed for Columbus Day. It read: “After serving the Kansas Department for Children and Families for two and a half years, Wichita Regional Director Diane Bidwell is moving on. An interim director will be named shortly.

“We would like to thank Diane for taking on the tremendous responsibility of leading our Wichita office. She was involved in many successful endeavors, including the Business Process Redesign of Economic and Employment Services that has significantly improved client care. She also played an integral role in the collaborative effort to encourage employment through the Green Leaf Café. Most recently, she has done a great deal of work to facilitate a move from the Finney State Office Building to improve safety and efficiency for clients and staff. These are just a few of her many contributions. We wish her well.”

The memo was unsigned.

Related story

Legislators and others concerned that FaithBuilders organization is overstepping boundaries

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