Agency official explains actions in adoption trial involving FaithBuilders director

Andrea Dixon, director of FaithBuilders. (Nov. 7, 2013)
Andrea Dixon, director of FaithBuilders. (Nov. 7, 2013) File photo

A top official at the Kansas Department for Children and Families’ Wichita office went against agency policy in an adoption matter, according to testimony Monday in a separate case.

The information appears to be linked to allegations raised by DCF in an investigation completed earlier this month that said the Wichita office under the previous director gave preferential treatment to FaithBuilders executive director Andrea Dixon and her organization when it came to child placement decisions.

The incident came up Monday during the fifth day of testimony in a Sedgwick County juvenile court trial, where Dixon and her husband are seeking to adopt a 2-year-old girl who is in their foster care. If granted that adoption, the court’s decision would go against a DCF recommendation that was made after a change in the Wichita region’s leadership.

DCF has recommended that the girl and her 3-year-old brother be adopted together by a paternal great-grandmother in South Carolina. The boy, who was in another Wichita foster home, has already been adopted by the great-grandmother and went to live with her on Dec. 19.

Martin Helget, adoption director for St. Francis Community Services, which is the state-contracted agency for handling foster care and adoptions cases in the Wichita region, testified Monday about why he requested a home study of the Dixons.

A licensed social worker is required to do a study of a home being considered for an adoptive family. The study must be done before DCF officials, social workers and others involved with the families and children meet in what is a called a best interest staffing to either select an adoptive family or reject those being considered.

But the Dixons weren’t being considered for adoption of the girl, Helget testified, because DCF had not authorized that the boy and girl be split up. Only the great-grandmother was being considered as the adoptive family.

And yet Helget requested a home study of the Dixons be done before the BIS for the boy and girl was held on Nov. 4.

“Why?” asked Lynnette Herrman, the great-grandmother’s attorney.

“I thought we were going to have to consider the Dixons in the BIS along with (great-grandmother),” Helget said.

He explained that an administrator with DCF’s Wichita office had recently asked him to do a home study on another family that wasn’t being considered as an adoptive family for another case that involved four children.

That family wanted to adopt only one of the children, Helget said.

He said two families were being considered at the BIS who wanted to adopt all four children.

Under later questioning by DCF attorney Roger McDaniel, Helget said the Wichita DCF official interrupted the BIS meeting and “asked us why we weren’t considering one family for one child.”

So the BIS was stopped, the home study was ordered, and the BIS was reset for a later date, Helget said. Testimony didn’t reveal the final outcome of the case.

Helget said the administrator’s request was made in mid-October and that it was the first time such a request had been made of him.

“The administrator who told us to (consider the family wanting only one child) is no longer working there and was put on administrative leave,” Helget said.

Carol Baker, a program administrator for the Wichita DCF office’s prevention and protection services division, was placed on administrative leave Oct. 18. That was only days after Diane Bidwell resigned as the office’s director in the midst of the investigation.

DCF officials in Topeka didn’t respond to questions about Baker’s current status with DCF.

Dixon and FaithBuilders weren’t mentioned in Helget’s testimony about the case involving four children.

Also Monday, Judge Robb Rumsey asked Pamela Pearce, an adoption specialist for St. Francis and facilitator of the BIS on Nov. 4, why the Dixons weren’t invited to attend the meeting. The Dixons had been the girl’s foster parents since shortly after birth.

Nothing in the DCF policy says the Dixons couldn’t be there, Rumsey noted.

Pearce said it was her understanding that the Dixons had made it known that they wanted to adopt the girl. That would have precluded one of the Dixons being allowed to vote on the BIS decision because of a conflict of interest, Rumsey said, but that wouldn’t keep them from being allowed to be there.

The Dixons attended an Oct. 31 hearing before Judge Tim Henderson on their motion to block DCF’s recommendation. At that time, Henderson set the BIS date as Nov. 4.

Those who were eligible to vote were unanimous in their opinion that the great-grandmother be approved as the adoptive family, Helget said.

The three other sibilings in the family – girls ages 4, 5 and 6 – were adopted in July by a paternal great-uncle in North Carolina. DCF approved a sibling split in March so the girls could be adopted.

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