Kansas governor proposes merging DCF with departments for aging, juvenile corrections

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TOPEKA, Kan. -- Gov. Laura Kelly wants to merge the often-criticized Kansas Department for Children and Families with a pair of other departments.

"Creating this new agency provides us the opportunity to strengthen families," Kelly said of the Department of Human Services.

Kelly announced plans to merge the Department of Children and Families with with the Department for Aging and Disability Services and Juvenile Corrections. The new, larger department would have an annual budget of about $3 billion — 16% of the state's total spending — and more than 5,000 employees.

Lori Ross, the president and CEO of Foster Adopt Connect, said the merger could create efficiencies that free up more money to invest in kids. It would combine expertise and resources and make it easier for people that need the systems she believes.

"There are more situations than you can imagine where cross system clients are part of the deal. When you are the person who has to navigate all those systems, it can be enormously frustrating." Ross said.

Ross served on a committee to help overhaul DCF after the tragic 2015 death of Adrian Jones in Kansas City, Kansas.

But not everyone appears to be on board with the change.

Senate President Susan Wagle, a Wichita Republican, said in a statement: “Putting a new name on a problem does nothing to actually solve the problem.”

Both Kelly and Laura Howard, the top administrator at both agencies since Kelly took office a year ago, stressed that the merger is not designed to cut spending or staff.

“As I think about the value of the new organization, one of the tremendous values is putting a greater emphasis on prevention across all of the systems,” Howard said.

Kelly said she will submit an executive reorganization order to the Legislature after it convenes its annual session Monday. Under the state constitution, the order would take effect July 1 unless either the House or Senate rejects it within 60 days.

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