New leader of Kansas DCF says agency will undergo top-to-bottom review to address systemic failures

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February 07 2021 05:30 pm

TOPEKA, Ks — Two days after a Fox 4 Investigation into Kansas Division for Children and Families missteps in the Adrian Jones case, a new head of the department was announced Wednesday.

This, after former head of the agency, Phyllis Gilmore abruptly resigned earlier this month.

Incoming DCF Secretary Gina Meier-Hummel made it clear during a news conference in Topeka that she knows the Kansas child welfare system is a mess. She said there will be a number of immediate changes when she takes over, including a top-to-bottom review of the agency, its people and its procedures.

“We will be reviewing recent child deaths that have occurred,” Meier-Hummel said — including the case of seven-year-old Adrian Jones who was murdered by his parents and fed to the family pigs.

Fox 4’s Shannon O’Brien asked Meier-Hummel about the Problem Solver Investigation, which found several instances where reports of abuse were noted by social workers but never properly reported or investigated as required by law.

“If you find in your internal review that possibly some of your social workers and supervisors and people inside the agency have actually committed criminal acts by not reporting, is that something you will deal with internally and also report that to the proper authorities?” O’Brien asked.

Meier-Hummel did not shy away from the question, saying, “Yeah, we will do what we can. Obviously, we need to follow the letter of the law.”

Fox 4’s Problem Solvers Investigation also uncovered evidence that the Department has not been truthful regarding the death of Adrian Jones.

O’Brien also asked about that revelation: “If it’s found that there is somebody inside the department that has lied to the Child Death Review Board and Secretary Gilmore, will that person be retained? Will that person be let go?”

“We will not tolerate anyone being unethical in any way, so you will not lie, you will not write any documents that not have occurred,” Meier-Hummel said. “So unethical behavior will not be tolerated.”

The incoming secretary said she will work to make the notoriously secretive agency more responsive to the public.

“I hope with a new transparent state agency that you can give us some time to do what we need to do internally and look at what we need to do internally,” she said.

Chairman of the Health Committee, Rep. Dan Hawkins is one of many legislators supportive of Meier-Hummel’s appointment. He said if the new secretary needs help or can’t clean up the DCF from the inside, she’ll have legislative support.

“If we need a law changed to make things happen, we will certainly do that,” Hawkins said.

Meier-Hummel will begin her new job Dec. 1.

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