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Minutes for HB2751 - Committee on Children and Seniors

Short Title

Establishing the office of the child advocate for children's protection and services within the Kansas department of administration.

Minutes Content for Tue, Mar 20, 2018

The Chair opened the hearing on HB 2751.

Staff Kyle Hamilton explained each section of the bill then concluded his comments, saying an Office of the Child Advocate for Children's Protection and Services would be under the auspices of the Department of Administration (DOA). The DOA estimated additional expenditures of $122,741; however a funding source is unknown until further financial arrangements can be ascertained. He noted the Office of Judicial Administration indicated the bill could have a fiscal effect on operations within the court system.

Judy Conway, grandmother of Adrian Jones, her deceased grandson, spoke to the committee about the need for a Children's Ombudsman Office in Kansas. She acknowledged the jurisdiction of the Child Death Review Board, which does not have authority to view a living child's file from the Department of Children and Families (DCF). Ms. Conway requested the creation of an Ombudsman Office to be able to work independently to secure information on children who are victims of child abuse and neglect(Attachment 22).

Joni Hyatt, speaking on behalf of Lori Ross, President and CEO of FosterAdopt Connect, and a proponent of HB 2751, said that DCF created a statement of foster parent rights and included an Ombudsman position within the agency. She reported that parents have expressed concern for accountability since an internal Ombudsman has the potential to temporize itself if and when questions of care and service are submitted. Ms. Hyatt expressed the need of a separate, independent entity (Attachment 23).

Written Only Testimony as a Proponent was submitted by The Strengthen Families Rebuild Hope Steering Committee (Attachment 24).

Brian Dempsey, attorney with DCF, outlined several areas of the bill the agency opposes. He said that current statutes pertaining to DCF policies provide structure for reporting, investigating, monitoring and processing of customer service complaints and requests for records. Mr. Dempsey indicated the proposed office of child advocate would created additional structures and responsibilities in an already complex system.  He noted that the goal needs to be set for improvement and support of the existing system through accountability and transparency (Attachment 25).

Written Only Testimony as an Opponent was submitted by Chief Judge Merlin G. Wheeler, Fifth Judicial District, Emporia, Kansas (Attachment 26).

The hearing on HB 2751 was closed.

The meeting was adjourned at 10:33 a.m. The next meeting is scheduled for March 22, 2018.