OMG! For whatever reason (and there could be thousands) the Department of Children and Families just took your children away from you! After your initial outward expression(s): be it crying, cursing, or banging your head against the wall, the questions start coming?

What are you supposed to do next?

How do you get your children back?

When will you see them again?

The list of questions gets longer and longer, but the most perplexing question could turn out to be, where do you go to get your questions answered?

If Atty. Shanelle Dupree had her way, the next steps for parents all over the States of Kansas and Missouri, would be taking her Child in Need of Care 101 class. It’s a class she designed in response to problems she saw in the Child Welfare Sstem. It’s a class where parents can get the kind of information they need to successfully traverse through the Foster Care/Child in Need of Care process.

Orientation Class

It’s like an orientation class for college or on a new job,” said Dupree. “When you start a new job, the first thing you get is orientation. Why is it you don’t get some kind of orientation about how to get your children back?”

Dupree, who practices family law, regularly represents families in the system, and has served as a guardian ad litem as well as a judge pro tem in the system. When parents enter the system, she says, they have little if any knowledge of the system or what they need to do to get their child back.

CINOC 101 is a one-hour class Dupree has been teaching it in both Johnson and Wyandotte Counties.

In the class, parents learn terms and phrases used in the system.

“We use a lot of acronyms, like CASA, and DCF, and parents have no idea what we’re talking about,” said Dupree.

Parents also learn the role of all of the people and organizations they’ll be working with and they get answers to their questions about how the process works.

“This class is literally how the CINOC System works,” Dupree said.

With the information coming from a neutral party – she’s not your case worker or the judge — or parent’s open up, relax and seem ready to learn.

This makes sense

As much sense as the class makes, it had never been offered before. Now, with a year of success and documented outcomes, Dupree is ready to see how the class can be expanded to other parts of the state.

So far she teaches the class once per month at the family courts in Johnson County. One Johnson County Judge refers almost all of her parents to the class, others make the decision on a case by case basis. Parents who take the class receive a completion certificate. That’s important, because parents referred by the court need proof to show they’re done as ordered.

Making the system better

There’s been a lot of discussion in Kansas on how to improve the Foster Care System. In fact, in the waning days of the 2017 session, the size and organization of a Foster Care Oversite Task force is still being debated, but both everyone seems to agree, on the need to look at ways to improve the system.

Dupree has at least one idea for the task force, once it’s formed; add CINOC 101.

She even suggests having parents take the class before their child is taken away. For parents teetering on the edge of getting their children taken away, learning more about the system might help them stay out of it. For certain, parents armed with knowledge about the system are better prepared to navigate it, to get to the other side, “instead of simply being victimized by it.,” Dupree concluded.

If you want to learn more about CINOC 101, contact Atty. Dupree at (913) 815-4077.

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