DCF completes FaithBuilders review

Published On: Jan 13 2014 08:47:22 PM CST   Updated On: Jan 13 2014 10:18:18 PM CST
State office building

Placements are once again being allowed in a Wichita faith-based foster organization following a three-month investigation.

The Kansas Department of Children and Families suspended placements with foster homes recruited by FaithBuilders in October after DCF received a letter raising concern for children and their biological families.

In the review filed Monday, the state said DCF has "never received a formal complaint regarding its involvement with FaithBuilders." But an internal investigation began when Mary Dean, who identified herself as a Wichita activist, wrote a letter to DCF, highlighting four complaints against FaithBuilders in September. The letter was sent to 22 other leaders in Wichita.

In paperwork provided to Eyewitness News, Dean alleged Andrea Dixon, FaithBuilders' founder, abused her relationship with Diane Bidwell, the-now former director of the Wichita DCF office.

Dean said Faithbuilders is "selling black babies and children to the highest bidder," and Dixon "exercised unnecessary influence over DCF child placement decisions in the Wichita area."

Brad Burke, special counsel, called three of Dean's allegations unfounded and unsubstantiated. The Jan. 8 letter to DCF Secretary Phyllis Gilmore did find, however, that "DCF regional personnel allowed personal relationships with Andrea Dixon to result in improper sharing of confidential information from DCF staff to Andrea Dixon."

The DCF investigation shows, from 2010 to date, 70 DCF cases have involved FaithBuilders for either foster care or family preservation services. The 12-page report find four children were placed after Bidwell and her staff allowed Dixon to have "inappropriate input on placement decisions."

Bidwell resigned two days after the results of the investigation were turned in. Dixon remains the organization's executive director.

"DCF is taking action to remedy the problems identified by the review," Burke said in his letter. "DCF leadership is: amending agency policies; disciplining agency personnel that violated policy; conducting a review of individual cases; working to better educate families of their rights; and working to provide better training to DCF personnel and contractors."

Gilmore called the violation of policies an "isolated situation."

"At no point were there any allegations of abuse or neglect," Gilmore said.

Lynn Ward, President of the Board of FaithBuilders, said the organization had the best interest of children in mind at all times.

"Although FaithBuilders had appropriate consents/releases of information from families to share information, DCF second-guessed its workers for relying on those consents/releases; and that although under DCF rules, DCF workers had discretion to share information with FaithBuilders and to work with FaithBuilders to help children, those workers have been disciplined," Ward said.

DCF lifted the FaithBuilders placement-hold following the summary of review, opening about 30 foster homes in Wichita.