New DCF secretary hopeful for change

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – Gina Meier-Hummel’s first week as Department for Children and Families Secretary has been a busy one.

“We’ve hit the ground running so to speak,” she said.

She has spent the week meeting with department staff, and consultants, to see where changes in the department need to happen.

Meier-Hummel was appointed to the role last month by Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer.

She replaces Phyllis Gilmore, who announced her retirement in early November.

DCF has come under scrutiny the past year, after 77 foster children were reported missing from the foster care system, and allegations the agency didn’t do enough to protect children victims.

“I can’t change the past. I can only change where we move and how we move in the future,” said Meier-Hummel. “And so I chose to focus on what will we do differently.”

Earlier this week, the mother and boyfriend of Evan Brewer, from Wichita, were charged with the toddler’s murder after he was found encased in concrete in September.  The father claims DCF had been called to check on Evan several times.

Meier-Hummel said while she can’t comment on specific cases, the department is reviewing all cases resulting in death of a child and will take action.

“If there is internal action we need to take, if there is personal action, could our staff have done something they shouldn’t have done,”she said.

Meier-Hummel added she plans to create a dashboard so people can track the department’s progress moving forward.

“So folks know we’re doing what we said we would do,” Meier-Hummel explained.

KSN spoke with lawmakers earlier this week, who said they are hopeful the new leadership can regain the public’s trust.

“I’m more confident that we’ll have someone working on behalf of the kids and families in the foster care system,” Said State Sen. Laura Kelly, D-Topeka.

“I have great hopes and hope that we’ll have a good working relationship with our new secretary of DCF,” State Rep. Brenda Dietrich, R-Topeka, said.

Meier-Hummel says while she knows it will take time to change the public’s perception, she is up for the task.

“We have to do the work that is in front of us and do it well.”

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