Kansas foster care provider reviewed failures in Nebraska before agreeing to end contract

By: - September 7, 2022 3:43 pm

Records recently released by Nebraska regulators show they met with Saint Francis leadership, including CEO William Clark, to discuss ongoing performance problems shortly before announcing the “mutual” decision to terminate the foster care provider’s contract. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

TOPEKA — Officials from Saint Francis Ministries met with Nebraska regulators on Dec. 9, 2021, to review the organization’s failure to comply with the terms of its state contract.

The Kansas-based foster care provider had struggled to provide medical records for all the children it served, or documentation of in-home services and monthly visits, or completed background checks of foster parents.

Five days later, Saint Francis announced a “mutual agreement” to surrender its contract in Nebraska.

Records recently released by Nebraska regulators show a series of mandatory meetings leading up to that announcement, culminating in the Dec. 9 review of compliance problems. The records conflict with Saint Francis efforts to discredit Kansas Reflector reporting that the termination of the contract was related to performance.

Alison Kossover, chief administration officer for Saint Francis, previously claimed in a statement that an earlier report was “false” because both parties agreed to end the deal.

In response to questions for this story, Kossover acknowledged the performance problems that precipitated the “mutual” agreement to terminate the contract and attributed those problems to the organization’s struggle to hire and retain employees.

“Saint Francis Ministries struggled to meet some case management contract metrics for a number of reasons,” Kossover said. “The primary culprit was a labor shortage. The unprecedented low unemployment figures in Nebraska, combined with the effects of the pandemic, exacerbated our turnover rate and our ability to hire new case managers.”

Calendar records show Nebraska regulators met with Saint Francis leadership, including CEO William Clark, on Dec. 1, Dec. 6 and Dec. 9. The invitation to the Dec. 9 meeting included a request to review attached documents about compliance problems. Kossover described the meetings as “cordial and cooperative.”

The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services had placed Saint Francis on probation in December with numerous citations. The documents reviewed for the Dec. 9 meeting involved Saint Francis’ attempts to resolve those issues.

The foster care provider had corrected numerous citations for providing criminal history record checks and training for employees, timely responses to complaints, transportation policies, and documentation of medical consent for children.

But various samples of children in the care of Saint Francis and its subcontractors showed that some of the children were not receiving annual medical, dental and vision exams and were missing immunization records. In one of the sample sets, 25 out of 79 children appeared to have no medical records.

Saint Francis remained out of compliance for failure to provide service delivery plans for children. Those plans were never completed, according to notes in the records.

Documentation of in-home services was also missing.

“Per discussion with SFM staff on 10/29/21, these documents generally do not exist,” the agency notes said.

Other ongoing compliance problems involved the lack of fingerprint records for foster parents, missing documentation for monthly visits and a missing date for a health information report.

NOISE, an Omaha-based nonprofit news organization, interviewed Clark, the Saint Francis CEO, when the decision was announced to terminate the contract.

“If you go back and look at, have children been mistreated, have children been lost, are they being taken care of? Yes, they have,” Clark said. “Is there things we could have done better? Yes, there is. But it’s not about not fulfilling its obligation, it’s about who can bring the most resources to the table to even do a better job of taking care of children and families.”

Saint Francis, based in Salina, remains the largest foster care provider in Kansas. The organization is suing its former leadership for alleged financial misconduct.

This article first appeared in the Kansas Reflector, a sister site of the Nebraska Examiner in the States Newsroom Network.

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Sherman Smith
Sherman Smith

Sherman Smith is the editor of the Kansas Reflector. He was the Kansas Press Association’s 2021 journalist of the year. He has written award-winning news stories about the instability of the Kansas foster care system, misconduct by government officials, sexual abuse, technology, education, and the Legislature. He previously spent 16 years at the Topeka Capital-Journal. A lifelong Kansan, he graduated from Emporia State University in 2004 as a Shepherd Scholar with a degree in English.