JDC To Retrofit As Group Home for Children In Need Of Care
If you are familiar at all with the juvenile court system or the foster care system, you may be familiar with a growing problem around the state, but especially one in Southwest Kansas and Finney County. We simply do not have enough foster homes for children in our area.
But Finney County is taking major strides to do something about that.
Why is this a problem? Let’s start with a little background:
There are two types of children in the court system in Kansas. Juvenile offenders are kids who’ve gotten into some trouble so the courts determined they should be separated from society for a time in a detention facility. In Finney County and Southwest Kansas, we serve those kids in our Southwest Kansas Juvenile Detention Center (JDC), located in Garden City and staffed by Finney County employees.
Other kids in the court system, however, are not an offender but rather, a Child In Need of Care (CINC) and may need to be separated from their home or parents due to abuse, neglect, or lack of proper care and control. These children are placed into the custody of the state and then into the foster care system.
Many times, the goal of the state is to reintegrate the child back into their biological home. This involves visits with the parents and working with the family to resolve some of the issues that led them to this point, while trying to maintain some sense of normalcy in the child’s daily life through school, friends, work, etc.
However, in Southwest Kansas, there simply are not enough foster homes to keep the children near their parents to work on the reintegration process. Usually, the nearest foster/group homes available are located in Wichita (four hours away) or even farther across the state. Then the parents must fit the bill in order to visit their children. The children are uprooted from their daily lives to attend a new school in a new town away from everything they know, and then transported back and forth to attend court and various programs back here in Finney County. This is a strain on the reintegration process, the families, the children, and the system.
What is Finney County doing about it?
The Finney County JDC wants to do something to make a difference for these kids and families in Finney County and our surrounding Southwest Kansas area. They have requested grant money from the State of Kansas to turn a portion of the JDC into a group home for CINC kids.
According to Kansas juvenile law, children in foster/group homes should still feel like they are in a home. The home must meet many criteria not only in safety and security, but in the nature of the home itself. Therefore, the process to remodel, or retrofit, the JDC will bring many changes to create a more home-like atmosphere for the kids housed there.
Two pods, or living spaces, will be retrofitted to house 14 kids total; one pod for seven girls, one pod for seven boys. Boys and girls will be kept separate, and the CINC pods will be completely separated by sight and sound from the detention area of the center.
Each pod will have a kitchenette area where the kids can learn to cook and clean up after themselves. They will also be allowed any other freedoms they would have in a normal foster/home environment, such as going out to eat, going out with friends, going to school, their job, shopping, etc.
Each child will have their own private bedroom they can decorate and make their own, complete with private bathroom facilities in each room.
Unfortunately, for many children in the foster care system, their age also becomes a deterrent to foster homes accepting them in placement, even just temporarily. Apparently, housing and raising a teenager brings a whole new set of challenges. That’s why the new Finney County group home center will specifically focus on housing only children aged 14-17.
Finney County kids also get first priority for the beds in the center. The state believes they can fill all 14 beds within the first year, just from children in need in Finney County alone. Children from our surrounding counties will also be accepted at the center, as beds are available.
Katrina Pollet, Executive Director of the JDC and the neighboring Finney County Community Services Center, applied for the grant last week. It may take up to 30 days to hear about the approval of the grant, but Pollet says the State is very eager to have this new facility.
Our Detention Center and staff are continuously hailed across the State for top marks in performance and customer service to the kids we serve. The existing staff will continue to serve all the kids in the center and will receive new training in working with CINC kids.
Upon approval, the project is expected to get underway immediately and Pollet hopes the center will be able to start housing CINC kids by the spring of 2019. Finney County worked with local architect company, GMCN Architects, and plan designs are already established.
The State’s grant would fund the project at 100% for a total projected amount of $375,000.