The Division of the Child Advocate strives to meet the delineated mandates through the following goals:
The purpose of the Division of the Child Advocate is to ensure that children and families receive adequate coordination of child welfare services for child maltreatment prevention, protection, and care through services offered by Department for Children and Families, Department for Aging and Disability Services, Department of Corrections, Department of Health and Environment, and juvenile courts.
The Division of the Child Advocate serves as an independent voice for the safety, health, and well-being of children and families who are involved with the State child welfare system due to allegations of child abuse or neglect.
The Division of the Child Advocate’s most important foundational component is its independence. KDCA is located organizationally within the Department of Administration for technical assistance and advice, only to function as an independent state agency as part of the Office of Public Advocates. The work of KDCA is conducted independently from DCF, KDADS, KDOC, KDHE, the Governor, OJA, and the Legislature.
The Division of the Child Advocate maintains the confidentiality of its complainants unless this is waived by the complainant and such waiver is deemed necessary to carry out KDCA’s work or as disclosure may be required by law. The confidential nature of KDCA’s work is designed to encourage individuals to report problems or concerns, thereby enabling KDCA to perform its duties more effectively. KDCA maintains the confidentiality of all records as set out by applicable state and federal laws. Executive Order No. 21-28 sets out that the Division of the Child Advocate’s Annual Report shall remain confidential until its submission to the entities outlined in section 13 and that such reports shall not include names or personally identifiable information of children, guardians, or families in complaints. KDCA final findings letters and reports shall not include names or personally identifiable information of children, guardians, or families in complaints. Furthermore, no employee of KDCA or anyone in receipt of a KDCA final findings letter or report shall knowingly disclose confidential information without lawful authority.
Kerrie Lonard, Child Advocate, joined the office by Appointment in December 2021. Previously Kerrie spent 14 years with Kansas Legal Services, with a focus on poverty law issues, serving as both Staff Attorney and Managing Attorney. Kerrie supervised staff in providing legal assistance in areas of housing, consumer, public benefits, and child and family law matters. Kerrie has represented children and youth as Guardian ad Litem (GAL), as well as parents, and interested parties in child-in-need-of-care proceedings. Prior to earning a law degree, Kerrie worked as a school social worker for five years, and other foster care and child advocate roles, including as a CASA volunteer.
Kerrie earned a Bachelor of Social Work from the University of Kansas, a Master of Social Work from Washburn University, and is a graduate of Washburn University School of Law.
Kerrie has served on the Kansas Supreme Court Taskforce on Permanency Planning as a GAL, as panel member and former Chair for the CAPTA Citizen Review Panel: Intake to Petition/CJA Taskforce, and presently serves as the National Association of Counsel for Children State Coordinator for Kansas.
Elizabeth has worked in child welfare for more than 10 years in various roles including child abuse and neglect investigations, case management supervision and agency leadership. She has experience in practice model implementation, policy development, performance measure compliance, and enhancing best practice. Elizabeth has served as an assessor in multiple Child and Family Service Reviews (CFSR), evaluating state child welfare practices to federal outcome standards.
Elizabeth earned a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice from University of Nebraska and a Master of Social Work from University of Missouri-Kansas City. Elizabeth holds a professional license as a Master Social Worker (LMSW) in Kansas.
Wendy has over 15 years of experience in rural and metropolitan child welfare including child protective services investigations, foster care case management, agency leadership, and as a domestic violence specialist. She worked as an investigator within the Utah Child Protection Ombudsman Office and has served as an assessor in Child and Family Service Reviews (CFSR), evaluating state child welfare practices to federal outcome standards. She has experience in practice model implementation, policy development, compliance, and foster care licensing. In addition to child welfare, she has ten years of experience with the Kancare Medicaid waivers.
Wendy earned a Bachelor of Social Work from Weber State University. She currently holds a professional license as a Licensed Bachelor Social Worker (LBSW) in Kansas, and previously held a license in the state of Utah.
Sarah has served for over a decade in the Early Childhood Education Field. As a Childcare Coordinator focusing on growth and training in the areas of Trauma Informed Care and Positive Behavior Supports, Sarah has connected with a passion in helping children to be healthy, happy, and cared for.
Sarah holds a bachelor’s degree in Speech Language & Hearing from the University of Kansas.