Family is at the core of everything. Family is a source of healing, a place of safety, and a fountain of memories. The Kansas Department for Children and Families is the social service state agency that arguably has the most interactions with families in their challenging times. Since its inception in 1973, DCF is federally responsible for receiving calls of suspected child abuse and neglect, looking into the allegations, providing services for families, and recommending child placement changes.
DCF’s administration has focused on evidence-based practices and developing a practice model that will change the way we interact with families. We have implemented culturally competent practices that work to see the dignity in every family and gives family a voice. This is reflected in Team Decision Making Meetings which brings a family and their support system to the decision table when a child, due to the parent’s behaviors, are at risk for removal of their home. This meeting is a powerful opportunity to “put all the cards on the table” and clearly outline the dangerous behavior, figure out how to establish safety with the parent’s support system, and hear the child’s voice. TDM’s provide dignity to families.
Personally, I decided to work in child welfare because of my own family history. 3 out of the 4 of my grandparents were raised by someone other than their parents. The additional truth is statistically, they were more likely to end up in the foster care system because of the color of their skin.
Data shows that more than half of all Black children will experience a child protective services investigation by 18 years of age, Black and Brown children are more likely to end up in foster care compared to White children and compared to White children, they are less likely to receive necessary services while in foster care. This is not just a Kansas problem; this epidemic is nationwide, and it is systematically forever altering families.
Foster care should be a place of last resort for children and families. It should not be used for parents that are poor, nor as a punishment for parents that are difficult, and it’s not a place for parents whose morality doesn’t match ours.
The Kansas Department for Children and Families is engaging in courageous conversations. We are going on a statewide learning journey and partnering with two other organizations to help define the problems and work through micro and macro level solutions. DCF, CarePortal (a faith and community organization) as well as the University of Kansas School of Social Welfare (a premier research institution) have committed to a learning collaborative which will involve 4 “online learning lectures) hosted in September, October, January, and February. Speakers throughout the nation will help to define the problem of racial inequities in child welfare, help us to understand how we got here, and then move to action.
One agency cannot fix this multi-faceted problem. Everyone involved must reimagine supporting families instead of only reporting them. My grandparents had a support network out of this world. I’m grateful for a legacy of support and look forward to engaging with the community on how we can normalize support and recognize the value in every family.
Shanelle Dupree is the Kansas City regional director for the Kansas Department for Children and Families, Chairperson for the Juvenile Justice Oversight Committee, and Adjunct Professor at Washburn Law and the University of Kansas Medical Center
 Kim H. Wildeman, C, Jonson-Reid M, Drake B. Lifetime Prevalence of Investigating Child Maltreatment Among US Children. AM J Public Health. 2017; 107(2)274-280.
 See The Annie E. Casey Foundation Kids Count Data Center, https://datacenter.kidscount.org/updates/show/264-us-foster-care-population-by-race-and-ethnicity, last visited September 7, 2021,
 Garcia, A. R., Kim, M., & DeNard, C. (2016). Context matters: The state of racial disparities in mental
health services among youth reported to child welfare in 1999 and 2009. Children and Youth Services
Review, 66, 101–108. https://www.doi.org/10.1016/j.childyouth.2016.05.005