In a letter to state legislators, the secretary of the Kansas Department for Children and Families said her agency wouldn’t place children at foster homes operated by Faith Builders until a review of ongoing concerns is completed.
Phyllis Gilmore wrote in the letter dated Thursday, “I want you to be aware that in an abundance of caution, I have instructed our contractors and sub-contractors to do no further placements with homes associated with Faith Builders.”
Faith Builders and its association with DCF’s regional office in Wichita became a topic of concern among legislators. Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau, D-Wichita, contacted DCF staff in August, prompting the initial review.
She cited such concerns as the agency’s Wichita office directing children to Faith Builders’ foster care homes, improperly providing confidential information to Faith Builders and Faith Builders circumventing the court process on parental rights.
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That review was completed and given to Gilmore on Oct. 10, but Gilmore would not release the results publicly, citing attorney-client privilege. That resulted in a bipartisan group of legislators calling for the review to be made public, which prompted Gilmore’s letter.
Theresa Freed, a DCF spokeswoman, said the letter was sent to eight legislators who have spoken publicly to the media about the issue. The letter will be sent to additional legislators, if they request it.
Diane Bidwell resigned last week as director of the Wichita office. DCF officials have said the resignation was voluntary.
Gary Ayers, attorney for Faith Builders, said Thursday he wasn’t aware of the content of the letter until a copy was provided by The Eagle.
“I was trying to reach our client,” he said. “I don’t know if Faith Builders has received any notification from DCF. This comes as a surprise.”
Ayers said Faith Builders has 25 foster homes in Wichita. Since it began operation in 2007, he said, it has helped many families by providing food, cribs, rent, furniture, respite and foster care.
When he met with the DCF investigator during the preliminary review, Ayers said: “We asked if Faith Builders had done anything wrong. The DCF investigator said no.
“The DCF investigator also indicated there had been no family complaints,” he added. “It seems the only complaint has come from a politician.”
Faust-Goudeau could not be reached for comment Thursday.
Gilmore said in her letter that the initial review has prompted her to request additional “work be done to address DCF’s association with Faith Builders.”
“I want to assure you, we are quickly and thoroughly reviewing each and every case in which Faith Builders has been involved,” she said. Information from the additional review will be shared with the legislators after it’s completed, she added.
Gilmore she said that DCF doesn’t have a contract with Faith Builders. DCF contracts with St. Francis in the Wichita region to provide foster care and family preservation services, she said.
St. Francis contracts with DCCCA, a Lawrence-based organization, which works directly with Faith Builders, she said.