Governor Laura Kelly announced today that Kerrie Lonard, Lawrence, is the Kansas Children’s Advocate. As Children’s Advocate, Lonard will lead the Children’s Advocate Division, created by Governor Kelly in October to improve our state’s child welfare system and protect children in Kansas.
âWhen we started looking for the Children’s Advocate, we knew we would need a strong leader – someone who could address the systemic challenges facing our state’s child welfare system,â Governor Kelly said. âAs a former social worker and longtime family law lawyer, Kerrie is imminently qualified to lead the Children’s Advocate Division. She is committed to independence and transparency within the division and has demonstrated her dedication to protecting our children.
“I have no doubts that under his leadership, the Child Advocate’s Division will achieve its goal – to ensure that all Kansans in our child protection system receive the services they need, when they need them,” Governor Kelly said.
Lonard has currently worked at Kansas Legal Services in Topeka for almost 14 years, serving as both staff attorney and attorney general. As Attorney General, she oversees staff providing legal assistance to members of the public, often in the areas of family law and cases of children in need of care.
Prior to obtaining her law degree, Lonard worked as a school social worker for five years and held other roles in foster care and child advocacy. Throughout her career, she has held important leadership positions, including serving as the Kansas State Coordinator for the National Association of Counsel for Children and as an appointed member of the Kansas Supreme Court Task Force. on tenure planning.
Lonard holds a BA in Social Work from the University of Kansas, an MA in Social Work from Washburn University and is a graduate of Washburn University Law School.
“I am honored to have this opportunity to serve the families and children of Kansas”, said Kerrie Lonard. âThe mission to advance the well-being of those involved in the child protection system is close to my heart and has been a driving force throughout my professional life. I am embarked on the long road and hard work that lie ahead of us to ensure that the best interests of our children remain at the forefront and that the Children’s Advocate Division is a platform to make the voices of those we serve heard. . I look forward to that day in our future when we can all confidently say that all families and children in Kansas are receiving the services they need and that all of our children are free from harm and neglect. , that they are cherished and that they prosper. . “
Lonard will begin his work as a children’s advocate on December 12, building the structure of the division. Information on how the public can contact the office will be released at a later date.
The Children’s Advocate Division was established by Governor Kelly by Executive Order 21-28. When the structures are in place, it will act as a centralized entity to:
- Protect Kansas children and families from harm by providing a system of independent oversight and accountability for public and private entities involved in child welfare.
- Compile and receive complaints filed on behalf of children within the child protection system.
- Review the practices of agents in the child protection system.
- Provide non-partisan and independent reports to the governor, legislature and judiciary on an annual basis. These reports will detail the complaints received by the office and provide recommendations for improving services and systems.
- Improve coordination among state agencies, contractors, and partners in the child protection space to ensure all children and families in Kansas receive quality services.
- Educate children and families of their rights and rights under federal and state laws and serve as a resource for families trying to navigate the child welfare system.