Kansas family struggling to adopt adoptive daughter, says system is down

TOPEKA Nicole DeHaven broke down in tears as she testified about her foster care experience during a Monday meeting with state lawmakers.

DeHaven and her husband, John, have raised their adopted daughter since she was three days old. But when the Gardner couple tried to adopt the 2-year-old, they were told that they would also have to adopt his three half-siblings. The Gardner couple did not have the resources to care for so many children and did not think it would be the right decision for any of the children.

The DeHavens say removing their daughter from their home would deeply traumatize her and also harm their adopted 2-year-old son, who has been raised by her side all his life.

“How am I supposed to explain to him what happened to his sissy?” Nicole DeHaven asked lawmakers.

The DeHavens told their story in person and in written testimony for the Joint Committee on Oversight of the Child Welfare System, which met Monday for the first time this year.

The DeHavens, who are approved adoptive parents through state contractor Cornerstones of Care, said they were assigned to a new case team in March 2021 and the team refused to accept them. consider or even include them in the process of finding an adoptive family. According to the DeHavens, social workers turned on them after a potential first adoptive family failed.

“We’ve been accused of so many things, it’s unbelievable,” the DeHavens said.

The DeHavens believe Cornerstones of Care is attacking them for taking legal advice and raising concerns about the organization’s procedures and decisions.

The case team accused John DeHaven of being physically and verbally aggressive, the DeHavens said. The case team also filed a report with the Department of Children and Families, alleging the family improperly conducted a therapist assessment of their home life, the DeHavens said.

“We were taking their advice, not knowing at all that the proper paperwork hadn’t been put in place,” Nicole DeHaven said. “And that this team never endorsed it, what part of me feels like that was intentional. It was intentional.”

DCF spokesman Mike Deines said the department has been made aware of the concerns.

“The agency is working with the family and our case management provider to address concerns raised today at the Joint Child Protection Oversight Committee meeting,” Deines wrote in a statement to Kansas. reflector.

Cornerstones of Care did not respond to requests for comment for this story.

Rep. Susan Concannon, a Republican from Beloit who is chair of the Child Welfare Oversight Committee, and Rep. Jarrod Ousley, a Democrat from Merriam, led a discussion on concerns about the foster care system. (Rachel Mipro/Kansas Reflector)

Kansas’ foster care system has long been criticized for the constant turnover of social workers, allegations of financial fraud and misconduct, and poor supervision of children in the system.

In June, a monitoring group discovered that Kansas had one of the highest rates of missing foster children. An August DCF report showed that 66 of the approximately 6,200 children placed in foster care were missing.

Lawmakers thanked the DeHavens for testifying on the issue, saying that in many cases foster parents were afraid to publicly criticize the organizations they worked with.

“Thank you so much guys for coming out and speaking on behalf of many of the foster parents that we’ve been hearing about quietly, who don’t want to talk because they don’t want any kind of retaliation against the kids they still have the ability to care. I wish we could wave a magic wand to fix this instantly,” said Rep. Charlotte Esau, R-Olathe.

Their adopted daughter is now set to be adopted along with her half-siblings, although the adoption has yet to be finalized. The DeHavens say they are done with fostering after this experience and will let their foster care license expire. They are currently focused on minimizing the trauma of the move for their adopted daughter.

“We are devastated,” said John DeHaven. “We are doing everything we can to keep him from suffering during this transition.”

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