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Kentucky Governor Explains Termination of 'Adoption Czar'

J. Tyler Franklin

Kentucky's Republican governor said he terminated a $240,000 no-bid contract for a state "adoption czar" because it was not worth it to keep him on the job even though he praised his performance.

Gov. Matt Bevin hired Daniel S. Dumas as a special adviser last year, awarding him a contract to assess a state adoption and foster care system that has more than 8,500 children in out-of-home care and has consistently not met federal standards on preventing abuse and neglect.

Bevin announced the job during his 2017 State of the Commonwealth address and then hired Dumas in May for a one-year contract that was renewable for another two years.

But last month, the Bevin administration terminated Dumas' contract after just seven months on the job and, according to the agreement, paid him a $60,000 buyout.

"It seems outrageous, but at the same time this is the nature of these things," Bevin said of the buyout Monday. "We got from him what we needed and the value on a going forward point wasn't going to continue to be worth it."

Bevin said Dumas met with every department within the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, asking questions about how they do things and why they do them that way. He also met with outside groups Bevin says the state wants to work with to improve its foster care and adoption system.

Dumas then reported that information to Bevin, who said he used it to help write his two-year spending proposal. That budget includes an additional $24 million to hire more social workers and to pay them more money. His budget also includes an additional $10.8 million for adoption and foster care programs, but Bevin has yet to specify how all of that money will be spent.

"What he did was valuable," Bevin said. "But ... it is the responsibility of the administration and myself as governor to look at whether the cost benefit analysis continues to be worth it."

Bevin and his wife adopted four children from Ethiopia nearly nine years ago after they said attempts to adopt from Kentucky's foster system failed. He said the experience was one of the reasons he decided to run for governor.

Republican state Rep. David Meade, who is also an adoptive parent, has sponsored a bill that would make sweeping changes to the state's adoption and foster care system. The Republican majority in the state House of Representatives has signaled the bill a priority, filing the legislation as House Bill 1.

Dumas is the second high-profile departure from the Bevin administration this year. Last week, Cabinet for Health and Family Services Secretary Vickie Yates Brown Glisson resigned to start a campaign for Congress in Kentucky's 3rd district. The cabinet is the state's largest agency with more than 7,500 employees and a $13.6 billion budget that includes state and federal money.

Bevin said Monday he has "no immediate plans" to appoint a permanent successor, naming Executive Cabinet Secretary Scott Brinkman as the acting head of the agency that will begin implementing the nation's first ever work requirements for Medicaid beneficiaries later this year.

"I've got outstanding folks who are doing the work," Bevin said. "While we are sorry to see her go, the cabinet is strong. Very strong."

Glisson hopes to challenge Democratic Rep. John Yarmuth, who represents the heavily Democratic city of Louisville. Bevin called Yarmuth a "bomb thrower" and said he "adds no value."

"If the people of Kentucky want somebody that will actually add value for us in Washington, they are going to have a better opportunity," he said.

A spokeswoman for Yarmuth did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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