Eagle editorial: DCF helping kids go hungry

10/10/2013 12:00 AM

08/08/2014 10:19 AM

After all the policy changes to make it harder for Kansans to receive welfare, you would think that the Kansas Department for Children and Families had run out of ways to be cruel. But no.

DCF has rejected federal funding to help identify and enroll people who qualify for food stamps.

Why wouldn’t DCF want to help struggling Kansas families?

“We simply do not believe taxpayer dollars should be used to recruit people to be on welfare,” DCF spokeswoman Theresa Freed told the Kansas Health Institute News Service.

So our Kansas tax dollars are paying for Brownback administration officials to reject our federal tax dollars to help needy Kansans.

The federal funding was supposed to go to community outreach programs. Local nonprofit organizations had applied for the funding and been approved. But on Sept. 30, the day before the grants were supposed to be renewed, DCF told the groups it was turning down the federal money.

The groups that lost funding were the Kansas Food Bank in Wichita ($13,819), Rice County Communities That Serve ($16,268), Harvesters in Kansas City, Mo. ($14,315), Community Access in Independence ($12,621) and Catholic Social Service in Dodge City ($14,507).

In addition to rejecting this funding, DCF has cut off available federal aid to some Kansas children and families and raised eligibility requirements for child-care assistance. It justifies such moves as a form of tough love.

“DCF believes that encouraging people to sign up for welfare benefits is not consistent with our position that welfare should be used temporarily and serve as a bridge to employment and self-sufficiency,” Freed said.

The community groups see it differently – and rightly so.

“We think what we’re doing is the morally right thing to do – and that’s helping people who are really struggling,” Deborah Snapp of Catholic Social Service in Dodge City told KHI News Service.

And these aren’t deadbeats, as some DCF officials seem to think.

“The majority of people are working, or they are single moms with small children,” Snapp told the Lawrence Journal-World, adding that “if you are hungry, you need help.”

Debi Kreutzman, director of community relations at the Kansas Food Bank, said the food-stamp outreach is needed because charities can only do so much to help struggling families.

“Food pantries, commodity programs, soup kitchens.… They’re just not enough,” she said.

Shannon Cotsoradis, executive director of the advocacy group Kansas Action for Children, said that some families with children can unexpectedly find themselves in difficult circumstances and be unaware they are eligible for food assistance. DCF’s rejection of federal outreach funds “means more Kansas children will go hungry.”

But DCF isn’t encouraging welfare. It must feel proud.

For the editorial board, Phillip Brownlee

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