Troubling trend in Kansas foster care system

KANSAS CITY, Kan. - The number of kids in foster care in Kansas is at a record high while the number of social workers is dropping.

In 2010, there were 1300 children in the foster care system in Johnson and Wyandotte Counties.

Five years later, that number jumped to 1800 which was a 39% increase.

Lois Rice is the Executive Director of the Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) for Johnson and Wyandotte counties. She helps match volunteers with kids in the foster care system.

RELATED| Record number of children in Kansas foster care

It's a system that's going through a turbulent time.

"We had a situation recently where a three year old who in a matter of 15 months had three different social workers," said Rice.

These advocates work alongside social workers but they can't replace them.

Rice said, "We know that if we work with a social worker who has been there for three or four months we are considering them as a seasoned worker."

Rice believes the high turnover rate for social workers can be contributed to a smaller pool of people entering the field.

The nature of social work can be very stressful and the pay is often low- especially after budget cuts.

In the end, Rice said it's the kids who suffer the most.

"So there were delays and delays and delays because the new social workers were not able to get information and get them to the court in time," said Rice.

Rice explains the increase in children in the system can be contributed to a few factors including:

-Poverty

-Substance abuse

-Mental illness 

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Shannon Halligan can be reached at shannon.halligan@kshb.com.

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