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DCF releases investigation report on Wichita child placement complaints

Confidentiality and other policies violated report shows

By Mike Shields | January 13, 2014

Kansas Department for Children and Families officials in Wichita improperly shared confidential information about some foster care cases with the director of a faith-based group who also was allowed to have "inappropriate input" in how some cases were handled, according to a report released today by the DCF central office in Topeka.

The 12-page report was accompanied by an 18-page letter from Brad Burke, the special counsel chosen to conduct the investigation, which began in October following complaints about the relationship that the DCF regional office in Wichita had with Andrea Dixon, executive director of FaithBuilders.

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Report on DCF Wichita activities

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The agency characterized the investigation as an "internal review."

FaithBuilders does not have a formal relationship with DCF but works directly with a DCF contractor that provides foster care and family preservation services to the state. The FaithBuilders organization includes some foster homes licensed by DCCCA, a DCF subcontractor used for placements by the agency's prime contractor in the region. The prime contractor is St. Francis Community Services.

The review determined that there were 70 cases that had involved FaithBuilders and that 13 of those had involved children in state custody because of family abuse or neglect. Of those 13 cases, according to the report, nine were found to have involved improper disclosure by DCF officials of confidential information. In four of the cases, Dixon was allowed to have "inappropriate influence" on decisions of where the children were placed.

Diane Bidwell was the DCF regional director in Wichita when the concerns were first raised. She subsequently resigned.

Bidwell was not specifically named in the report, but was implicated. Other DCF employees also were found to have violated agency policies and have been or will be disciplined, according to the report, which did not say how many workers had been involved in the violations that were turned up.

DCF officials did not immediately respond to questions about the report, which was shared with some Wichita-area legislators and news outlets.

The agency has taken steps to clarify policies and improve employee training as a result of the internal review, according to the report.

Andrea Dixon, founder and director of FaithBuilders.

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The report concluded that Dixon and FaithBuilders could not have violated any agency policies because they are not employed by DCF or under contract to the agency.

It also said DCF Secretary Phyllis Gilmore has lifted an earlier moratorium on child placements in FaithBuilders' foster homes.

The report substantiated one complaint of four raised by the Wichita woman whose letter sent to legislators and others sparked the review. Two of the complaints couldn't be substantiated by the facts, according to Burke, and one couldn't be substantiated because of "insufficient evidence" to make a determination.

But Burke said in his letter that "some DCF regional personnel allowed personal relationships with Andrea Dixon to result in improper sharing of confidential information from DCF staff to Andrea Dixon, and some DCF regional personnel gave unnecessary deference to Andrea Dixon and FaithBuilders in a number of DCF placement decisions. The evidence provided supports those conclusions."



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