Counterinsurgency in Foster Care

Dr. Jamie Schwandt
Foster Care University
8 min readOct 16, 2017


You know things are bad when someone is writing and comparing foster care to counterinsurgency. This may sound insane, but hear me out. Foster care could be a phenomenal system. It could be an opportunity for a child that they did not have before. Yet it’s not. I used to support the Kansas Department for Children and Families (DCF). In fact, they used to sponsor my television show Dreaming Big with Dr. Schwandt.

However, there are major problems in the Kansas foster care system. I decided to take a deep look into this broken system and look at how people and organizations interact with each other. I looked at relationships among individuals and organizations. By looking deep into these relationships, I was able to identify specific things that can be done to improve this system.

Executive Summary

Let’s take a quick look at what to expect.

1. What is Counterinsurgency.

2. Counterinsurgency and Foster care.

3. Network Analysis.

4. Gilmore’s Resume.

What is Counterinsurgency?

Counterinsurgency is an effort to defeat or contain an insurgent group. Think of an insurgent group as a rebellion who has used violent tactics to seize political control. Without going into further detail, think of the United States and the conflict’s in Afghanistan and Iraq. One example is the Taliban, who is an insurgent group waging war within Afghanistan.

In my mind, there is only one group or organization that conducts an insurgency better than anyone else… DCF.

Counterinsurgency and Foster Care

So, why would I make such a bold statement? Simple… because it’s true. In this case, an internal insurgency exists within DCF. There are good people in DCF, yet they are held in check by incompetent leaders.

Senior leaders in DCF actually do insurgency better than the Taliban. They operate like a clandestine cell, which is a way to organize people to resist penetration by opposing forces. This is a method typically utilized by criminal and terrorist organizations.

Network Analysis

I have conducted a deep analysis of the relationships and problems within the Kansas foster care system. I will not discuss the entire analysis (as this would take way too long), but I will discuss some of the key points.

Use the following diagram and follow along as I hit the key points.

DCF (3) and KVC & St. Francis (4) (foster care contractors) operate similar to that of an insurgent group. They have a strong hold on the system and on the Kansas House & Senate (9).

Foster Children (1) are used as a form of finance throughout the Kansas foster care system. Often, KVC & St. Francis (4) will remove children as a form of finance based on the premise of turning a profit.

The real profit comes to play in the Kansas foster care system when Foster Children (1) are converted to money as outlined in the Kansas Foster Care Contract/Policy (2). The contract leads to more and more children in care.

Outside of privatization, there is no other approach where foster care can be a money-making industry. Foster Children (1) have to remain in foster care for a profit, which means they must remain under the custody of the Secretary of DCF (7) and DCF (3).

DCF (3) benefit from power and can “pass the buck” to KVC & St. Francis (4). The nodes and links here relate directly to the conversion of Foster Children (1) to money. Foster Homes (5) and Social Workers (6) are the key to the entire system. The Secretary of DCF (7), DCF (3), and KVC & St. Francis (4) can keep the system afloat (status quo) if they are able to keep both (Foster Parents and Social Workers) quiet.

The Secretary of DCF (7) has wide-ranging influence over the entire system. She exerts direct influence on the system and serves as the custodian for all Foster Children (1) in Kansas.

The Secretary of DCF (7) holds political protection from the Governor of Kansas (8). There is something (I am calling it a Gap) between these two. I am curious to know what this is.

The Kansas House & Senate (9) have been reluctant to go after the Secretary of DCF (7) or DCF (3). For some reason they appear scared of both… which is crazy.

Multiple actors and groups benefit from the current system, including the CEO of KVC (10), the CEO of St. Francis (11), Competing Foster Care Agency(s) (12), the Secretary of DCF (7), and DCF (3).

The Secretary of DCF (7) purposely withholds information and sends misleading information to the Media (14). They also attempt to use Sympathy Campaigns by allowing children to sleep in government offices in order to promote the need for more foster parents and additional funding.

Ridiculous rules prevent more Foster Parents (6) from fostering. The lack of oversight and the lack of willingness to work with bordering state(s). DCF (3) and Social Workers (6) lack oversight or concern and allow Predators (14) to come onto the scene.

Predators (14) come from the following: Biological Parents (15) who are sex offenders, sex traffickers, Foster Parents (5), and even the Westboro Baptist Church (16) who serve as advocates for Foster Children (1). Yes… the Westboro Baptist Church.

Network Analysis — Solutions

After the Network Analysis, let’s take a look at some of the solutions. The solutions are all framed from the following perspectives: Policy, Culture, and Oversight.

Use the following diagram and follow along as I hit the key points.

Policy & Administration (P). The Governor of Kansas (8) should be pressured to FIRE the Secretary of DCF (7). The Kansas House & Senate (9) must be pressured to be more vocal and stop fearing DCF (3).

Policy & Administration (P). Apply pressure to the Governor of Kansas (8) in order to stop his political protection of the Secretary of DCF (7). DCF (3) and the Secretary of DCF (7) must be pressured to be transparent and stop withholding information. Also, privatization must end immediately!

Culture (C). The Kansas Task Force must be taken seriously. I was conveniently removed from the Task Force and was informed actual cases will NOT be used… even though the impetus for the Task Force was an actual case where a child was horribly murdered due to incompetence in the system. This Task Force has the potential to create an entirely new culture within the system. The system should encourage people (to include Social Workers and Foster Parents) to speak out. This may prevent the Predators (14) from hurting or killing children.

Task Force Response

Oversight (O). Lastly, once the Secretary of DCF (7) Phyllis Gilmore is fired, the new Secretary of DCF must develop an alert system to prevent 70+ missing children from running away and stop viewing children as a lost statistic.

Gilmore’s Resume

Let’s conclude with a list of problems in Kansas foster care, which should highlight why Phyllis Gilmore should be fired immediately. I am still trying to figure out how she still has a job?!

1. Fails to ensure safety of children in foster care.

2. Sleeping on government floors. Former legislator and current Republican candidate for governor Mark Hutton pushes Governor Sam Brownback to fire Gilmore due to frustration of children sleeping on government floors.

3. Three missing sisters from Tonganoxie foster home. I have a couple problems here. First, why are members of the House and Senate surprised? Also, why are they not demanding answers? They should be doing more and it should have never had to get this bad. Second, how does Gilmore not know anything about this? How does the Secretary of DCF not know when foster children are missing?

4. 70-plus children missing in Kansas foster care. Quite a few children are missing from foster care. Yet, DCF, KVC, and St. Francis are treating these kids like a statistic. Oh, and they are still getting paid for these children… even if they are missing. Gilmore’s response demonstrates how far removed from reality she is [my response in brackets].

DCF Secretary Phyllis Gilmore released the following statement:

The Kansas City Star’s Mary Sanchez recently wrote an editorial regarding children in foster care who are missing or have runaway. I am very much aware of the issue, protocols are in place to locate missing children, and the children are often found and returned to the foster care system within a matter of days. [so, have the children been found?]

It is terribly unfortunate that the agency, and I personally, have been depicted as knowing nothing about children missing from foster care. [but you didn’t know where they were or how many there was?!]

An estimated 1 percent of youth in foster care run away. This corresponds with the national average. And while the information may be new to legislators, it is common knowledge among those involved in the child welfare system. [yeah… this makes everything better… so what have you done in your 5+ years to fix this?]

And we don’t stop searching until they are found. [ok… so where are they?].

The State of Kansas is not a parent — and should not be, as Sanchez suggests. The Government was never equipped to raise a family. But we do take seriously our obligation to protect children and ensure their well-being. [I would love to see you finally take ownership of something. It’s not like you’re the senior leader in foster care or anything?!]

DCF responded to a comment I made on Facebook regarding Gilmore’s statement. Again, they take zero ownership.

Facebook Response from DCF

5. Number of missing Kansas foster children has actually doubled! So much for 1%.

6. The clock is ticking: save an infant girl living with intellectual disabled, sex offender father. Yes… DCF and KVC thought this convicted sex offender was ready to raise his infant daughter.

7. Profiting from foster care. Here is a reveling analysis of the current foster care contract.

8. Lastly… Incompetence in child welfare: this child’s life should have been saved. This was the reason the Task Force was created.

What an impressive resume we have here!

Let me end with one last question… How does DCF Secretary Phyllis Gilmore still have a job?



Dr. Jamie Schwandt
Foster Care University

Dr. Schwandt (Ed.D.) is an American author, L6S master black belt, and red teamer.