Nov 28, 2019 11:33 AM

Kan. foster care agency trains social workers to be ‘personal 911’ for kids

Posted Nov 28, 2019 11:33 AM

Kansas Department for Children and Families' social workers hold up sheets of papers illustrating the story of a 17-year-old boy who they expect in five years to be in prison or dead if they don't find him help. Evert Nelson / The Topeka Capital-Journal


Kansas News Service

The foster kid is a 17-year-old boy who was kicked out of his home when he was 10, started using drugs by 13, and in five years is expected to be in prison or dead.

Kansas Department of Children and Families social workers check on him every day and there’s been some progress: He’s now in an independent living facility and he’s not using drugs anymore. But he still has many needs, including a coming heart transplant.

How can he be helped?

About 100 social workers from the Kansas Department for Children and Families considered that question at a bootcamp-stype workshop in Topeka on Friday with Kevin Campbell, creator of a national model called Family Finding.

Campbell said the team assigned to the boy must find relatives or people who care about him and have them intervene in the boy’s life.

“Basically you are building the personal 911 system for this kid,” Campbell said. “We call it a firehouse intervention. Quite literally, he needs a personal fire department ready to help him respond to the life he lives, which is a crisis every day.”

The goal of Family Finding is getting kids connected to someone who loves them in hopes of keeping them out of the foster care system and potentially preventing further trauma. It’s one of several programs DCF has implemented since Gov. Laura Kelly came into office this year aimed at reforming the long-embattled foster care system.

The social workers being trained on Friday came from DCF, the state’s two private contractors, and advocates from the community, said Tanya Keys, deputy DCF secretary. A strategic plan will be formed next month, while training is being implemented across the state, she said.

“The idea is that (social workers) go back and start planting these seeds, talking about these concepts and we'll get materials out to them so we can start that readiness for implementation,” Keys said.

Kevin Campbell, founder of the Center for Family Finding and Youth Connectedness, trains about 100 Kansas social workers Friday in a national model called "Family Finding." Credit Evert Nelson / The Topeka Capital-Journal

Campbell, founder of the Center for Family Finding and Youth Connectedness and a former foster parent, began his research in 2000 after years of hearing “This kid’s got nobody.”

He found that most foster children actually have a large family and that if they could be connected with five to eight adults who would make a “permanent relational commitment” to the child, it could change outcomes.

“The training is really about, how do you heal children who have had such harm done to them?” he said. “And importantly, how do you heal the whole family? Because this kind of generational experience has to stop somewhere.”

The training was sponsored by the Casey Foundation and Aetna Better Health of Kansas, which provides health care services for the state foster care system. Kellie Hans Reid, foster care coordinator with Aetna Better Health of Kansas, said research shows that traumatic experiences affect children’s health. 

Groups of Kansas Department for Children and Families' social workers at a 'Family Finding' boot camp on Friday at the Topeka Capital Plaza Hotel. Credit Evert Nelson / The Topeka Capital-Journal

“That, in turn, will affect their life course and their mortality, their metabolic issues, their cardiac issues,” she said. “What we know is that trauma affects the body.”

After the training this week, the team of social workers went back to the 17-year-old boy they’d been working with. He had told them he didn’t have anyone in his life to help, but through talking with him about people from his past, social workers found some — including a former school principal and a former foster father who taught him jujitsu, a sport he loves.

The social worker, who could not be identified because she works undercover to find missing foster kids, said she was trying to “give him a family, like it doesn’t have to be blood, just someone who cares about him.”

“He went from having two of us,” she said, “to having 26 of us in this week.” 

Peggy Lowe is a reporter at KCUR and is on Twitter at @peggyllowe.

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Nov 28, 2019 11:33 AM
 Payments aren't aways timely, but Kan. says Medicaid contractor making progress

Aetna Better Health of Kansas CEO David Livingston attended the KanCare hearings this week. Stephen Koranda / Kansas News Service 


Kansas News Service

Though its Medicaid contract is still at stake, Aetna Better Health is making progress, Kansas lawmakers and state regulators said this week. 

“There has been a good response from them,” Kansas Secretary of Health and Environment Lee Norman told a panel of lawmakers Tuesday.

State regulators had put Aetna on notice in July that it wasn’t in compliance with its state contract and risked being fired. The state initially rejected Aetna’s proposal to correct issues this summer, but approved an updated plan in September that included concrete deadlines to fix specific issues like delayed payments to hospitals.

Company executives took responsibility for the challenges in August, and said Tuesday that improvements were happening.

“The work is not done yet, but we’ve come a long way,” Aetna national Medicaid CEO Randy Hyun said.

Among the changes are new processes to make payments to hospitals quicker and fix incorrect payment rates. The company also enrolled more health care providers, from 17,700 in March to 32,600 by the end of September.

The company also replaced top Kansas officials, and the new head of Aetna’s Medicaid program in Kansas said he is focused on the improvements and the quality of care Medicaid recipients receive. Aetna provides health care coverage for about one quarter of the nearly 400,000 low-income Kansans on Medicaid. 

“What I will personally promise is there’s going to be a never-ending focus on quality and outcomes,” state Aetna CEO David Livingston told lawmakers. “It’s our contractual obligation. It’s a moral obligation.”

Lingering issues

Despite the improvements, hospitals told lawmakers this week that they still see delays getting paid by Aetna, and there can be issues signing up to become an in-network provider.

“When you submit the same information to the same place over and over again, it just becomes very frustrating,” said Paula Pedersen, Abilene Memorial Hospital’s director of patient financial services. 

Lawmakers expressed relief that Aetna was on firmer footing, despite the remaining issues. 

“I’m pleased to see that big picture things are moving forward,” Republican Rep. Susan Concannon said. “In my district, I’m still hearing complaints.”

The head of KanCare noted that Aetna has set deadlines to make additional changes, and that the threat of firing them still stands.  

“Our goal is to work them into compliance,” Medicaid Director Adam Proffitt said. “This will not continue in perpetuity.”

He added that the state expects to see additional progress by the end of the year.

“We’re continuing to enforce high standards on them,” Proffitt told lawmakers. “We are not taking our foot off the gas.”

Stephen Koranda is Statehouse reporter for Kansas Public Radio and the Kansas News Service, a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio, KMUW and High Plains Public Radio covering health, education and politics. Follow him on Twitter @kprkoranda or email [email protected]