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Earlier this month, Gov. Laura Kelly established the Division of the Child Advocate, making Kansas the 14th state in the nation with an independent agency dedicated to oversight of our child welfare system.
This is a huge win for our kids and for our families, and a bipartisan victory every Kansan can celebrate.
Legislators on both sides of the aisle have worked to establish this office for years, but have been unable to reach an agreement. As former lawmakers from opposite parties, we applaud Gov. Kelly for helping to get this critical division established. The Division of the Child Advocate will increase accountability and advocacy for families navigating our foster care system.
At this point, most Kansans know the history of the problems plaguing our foster care system. They know why this is so important.
The previous administration had neglected and underfunded the system. The Department for Children and Families’ budget was cut to the bone. The agency was hollowed out.
Government support services that help keep families together were significantly reduced. More and more kids were unnecessarily entering the system — and getting stuck there long-term.
When Kelly took office, the system was in crisis. Plain and simple. We were failing our children. Failing our families.
Over three years, the Kelly administration has implemented commonsense reforms that have made a meaningful difference in the lives of Kansas families navigating the child welfare system.
But the governor said it best during her announcement: “Our work will never be done.” We must keep doing everything we can to fight for our most vulnerable kids. That’s why the Division of the Child Advocate is so important.
It will take a hard look at the system, and recommend structural changes Kansas can make to be better advocates for our kids. It will help Kansas families navigate the confusing child welfare system. And it will offer an independent accountability system to address and investigate complaints.
The road to finally establishing this new division has been long, and full of challenges. In a state and in a country that seem to be increasingly divided on every political issue under the sun, it brings us pride to see a commonsense, practical and bipartisan idea realized.
We are grateful to Gov. Kelly, child welfare advocates and the bipartisan coalition of legislators who came together to make this possible.
We encourage Kansas leaders to carry this bipartisan spirit with them to the next legislative session, and to every session. Because when we work together, we can get good things done for the people of Kansas.
Mary Martha Good, a Republican, and Monica Murnan, a Democrat, are former Kansas state representatives.