Governor Laura Kelly today announced Kerrie Lonard, Lawrence, as the Kansas Child Advocate. As Child Advocate, Lonard will lead the Division of the Child Advocate, established by Governor Kelly in October to improve our state’s child welfare system and protect Kansas kids.
“When we began our search for the Child Advocate, we knew we would need a strong leader – someone who could take on the systemic challenges facing our state’s child welfare system,” Governor Kelly said. “As a former social worker and a long-time attorney in family law, Kerrie is imminently qualified to lead the Division of the Child Advocate. She is committed to independence and transparency within the division, and has demonstrated her dedication to protecting our kids.
“I am confident that under her leadership, the Division of the Child Advocate will fulfill its purpose – to ensure all Kansans in our child welfare system are getting the services they need, when they need them,” Governor Kelly said.
Lonard currently has worked at Kansas Legal Services in Topeka for nearly 14 years, serving as both a Staff Attorney and Managing Attorney. As Managing Attorney, she supervises staff in providing legal assistance to members of the public, often in areas of family law and child-in-need-of-care cases.
Prior to earning her law degree, Lonard worked as a school social worker for five years, and other foster care and child advocate roles. Over the course of her career she has taken on significant leadership positions, including as the State Coordinator for Kansas for the National Association of Counsel for Children, and as an appointed member on the Kansas Supreme Court Taskforce on Permanency Planning.
Lonard has 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.
“I am honored to have this opportunity to serve the families and children of Kansas,” Kerrie Lonard said. “The mission to advance the wellbeing of those involved in the child welfare system is close to my heart and has been a driving force throughout my professional life. I’m committed to the long road and hard work ahead that is needed to ensure the best interest of our children remains at the forefront and that the Division of the Child Advocate is a platform to bring voice to those we serve. I look forward to that day in our future when we can all state confidently that all families and children in Kansas are receiving the services they need and that all of our children are safe from harm and neglect, that they are cherished, and they are thriving.”
Lonard will begin her work as Child Advocate on December 12, building the Division’s structure. Information on how the public can contact the office will be released at a future date.
The Division of the Child Advocate was established by Governor Kelly through Executive Order #21-28. When structures are in place, it will act as a centralized entity to:
- Protect Kansas children and families from harm by providing an independent oversight and accountability system for public and private entities involved in child welfare.
- Compile and receive complaints made on behalf of children within the child welfare system.
- Review the practices of agents in the child welfare system.
- Provide nonpartisan, independent reports to the Governor, Legislature, and Judicial Branches each year. These reports will detail the complaints received by the office and provide recommendations to improve services and systems.
- Improve coordination between state agencies, contractors, and partners in the child welfare space to ensure all Kansas children and families receive quality services.
- Educate children and families of their rights and entitlements under state and federal law and serve as a resource for families attempting to navigate the child welfare system.