Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Will Kansas End Backroom Fraud?

Kansas, after being selected by the federal partnership of the Department of Justice and Department of Health and Human Services Health Care Fraud Enforcement Task Force by the pattern of practice in Targeted Case Management fraud in child welfare, seems to the test case for observation on how the state is going to clean up its act.

What Kansas is really examining is its dire situation of a possible decrease in its Federal Financial Participation rates. I say cut them off and watch how fast Kansas gets its house in order.

The current state of affairs within the state administration of Social and Rehabilitative Services Department are creating a culture of fraud, waste and abuse to be cloaked and protected from public exposure.

One of the main problems, found in the States child welfare systems, is the lack of accountability and transparency in privatization. There are no contractual debarments, meaning the state will continue to renew contracts with private organizations that have been found, whether willingly and/or knowingly, to have committed fraud.

Another key issue is there is absolutely no oversight. There are no regulatory authorities that a stakeholder, referring to the parents, guardians and caregivers, can report suspected questionable activities in the realms of fraudulent claims. This only is allowed to exist because the state Medicaid Fraud Control Unit does miserably fails to investigate, prosecute and recover these funds.

Unnecessary and improper removals are performed for the intended purposes of fraudulent conversion of the custody of the child being remanded to the state.

The magnitude of fraud cover ups is so obvious, it impugns the veracity of all its child welfare programs. Here, Senator Lynn tells the Secretary of SRS very eloquently, that the operations of child welfare do not pass the stink test of fraud.



Until these child placing agencies, both public and private, are held to the same standards of scrutiny that caregivers are, nothing will change in Kansas.

Child welfare summit scheduled
National experts expected to testify to House committee

By Dave Ranney
KHI News Service
Feb. 8, 2010

TOPEKA — The chairman of the House Federal and State Affairs Committee is planning a four-days of hearings on child welfare issues.

“I’m trying to bring in some national experts to talk about best practices on foster care, adoption, family preservation and some other issues,” said Rep. Melvin Neufeld, R-Ingalls.

“We’ll spend a day with the courts – the judges – to see if there are any changes that can be made in the law to make things work better,” Neufeld said.

The hearings are scheduled at 1:30 p.m. on Feb. 24 and 25 and on March 1 and 2 in the Statehouse, Room 346-S.

Bills in play

The hearings coincide with legislators considering at least five foster care reform bills:

• House Bill 2461 would block the state from renewing its foster care, adoption and family preservation contracts with private contractors.

• HB 2494 would prohibit judges from putting a child in foster care solely because his or her parent(s) are homeless.

• HB 2511 would allow SRS to pay grandparents to care for grandchildren who’ve been removed from their parents’ custody. Payment would be commensurate with what foster parents are paid.

• House Bill 2512 would order the courts to review Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services placement decisions affecting children in foster care. Without the court’s approval a child would not be moved.

• House Bill 2513 would direct law enforcement to hold a runaway child in a secure facility until a court decides if the child should be in foster care.

Privatization

Kansas privatized most of its child-welfare responsibilities in 1996. Today, SRS investigates reports of child abuse and neglect and monitors a child’s progress within the system. Direct services are provided by regional contractors.

Several legislators – conservative Republicans, mostly – have been critical of privatization, accusing SRS and the contractors of abusing the rights of parents and grandparents.

In December, Rep. Mike Kiegerl, R-Olathe, accused the contractors of wielding “Gestapo-like powers” in their dealings with parents accused of mistreating their children.

Kiegerl is vice chair of the House Federal and State Affairs Committee.

Neufeld, a former speaker of the House and a key figure in the decision to privatize, said the hearings would focus on child welfare issues rather than specific legislation.

“What we’re looking for, really, is how do we make things better,” he said. “That’s really what this is about.”

SRS and the contractors have cited data showing that while there are exceptions, most children in foster care receive more services, remain closer to home and spend less time in the system than before privatization.

Neufeld said he’s sure there are shortfalls within the system.

“Any program that’s as diverse as this, there are going to be things that don’t happen right,” he said. “But the question to me is: How do we make the system work better and do a better job protecting chidlren in state custody.”

Neufeld is vice president of the National Conference of State Legislatures.
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