Reading between the lines could lead one to the conclusion that although the number of children in the state’s care is at a record high, the number should be much higher still.
On the other hand, families have complained to this newspaper in the past that the state is too quick to remove children from their homes and, once taken into state custody, it is a long and arduous task to get them back. It’s difficult to write about those incidents because, due to the reluctance of state officials to discuss specific cases, the newspaper hears only one side of the story.
But according to a recent story published in The Topeka Capital-Journal and at CJOnline, prosecutors who get a child-in-need-of-care case sometimes are surprised that the child’s case had been investigated numerous times and someone each time had found the complaint of abuse or neglect to be unsubstantiated.
Such was the case of a 14-year-old girl who finally was removed from her home after nine reports of neglect and abuse, eight of which were determined unsubstantiated. The girl weighed 66 pounds when she was removed from the home.
Records show 94.8 percent of child-in-need-of-care investigations in 2009 resulted in a finding of “unsubstantiated.” For 2013, 93.5 percent of such cases resulted in a finding of “unsubstantiated.” That really isn’t much change, although a spokeswoman for the Department of Children and Families says in child-in-need-of-care cases a substantiated claim isn’t necessary to temporarily remove a child from a dangerous situation.
It’s important to remember that behind the numbers — the children in state custody and the percent of unsubstantiated investigations — are children, many of whom need help through no fault of their own. Those who should be in their home should be there. Those who need help should get it.
Does the state sometimes act too quickly, as some parents have told this newspaper? Does the state sometimes act too slowly? Knowing that no system is perfect, common sense tells us the answer to both questions is yes.
The real question is how to improve the system so it gets better results. We’re not suggesting that isn’t the goal of the Kansas Department for Children and Families, but we will suggest that more eyes on a case that involves more than one complaint might be helpful. Regardless of how many different people have investigated a child’s case, a lot of smoke usually indicates a fire somewhere.
— The Topeka (Kan.) Capital-Journal