Department for Children and Families explains search for new Wichita space

WICHITA — A spokeswoman for the Department for Children and Families, formerly known as SRS, says the Finney State Office Building in Wichita is no longer adequate for the agency.

On Monday, Have You Heard? reported that nine state agencies, including more than 700 employees, will leave the building at 230 E. William when the state’s lease expires on Sept. 30, 2014.

Rep. Jim Ward, D-Wichita, questioned the motives for leaving, and Department of Administration spokesman Chuck Knapp said each agency would have to explain for itself.

DCF has the largest presence in the building with more than 550 employees. DCF spokeswoman Theresa Freed was unavailable to comment at the time but is available now.

“The reason we’re leaving is that the facility doesn’t meet our needs anymore,” Freed says.

She says part of the issue is that the office is spread out over multiple floors.

“It’s difficult to, obviously, have to go between the floors for the clients and the staff.”

Freed says a change in the agency’s business model in which it tries to get immediate answers for people who apply for benefits is leading to something of a logjam in its lobby area.

“The lobby at that building just isn’t adequate,” she says.

“We think that there’s probably a better facility out there that will meet our current needs,” she says. “We’re exploring our options right now, but there certainly is not a contract in place.”

Freed says she’s not sure whether the search will be limited to downtown.

“I just don’t know, honestly. All I know is we’re exploring our options.”

There’s one thing Freed says she does know that she wants to make clear.

“We are obviously taking our clients’ needs into account with any future plans to move,” she says. “We’ll be looking at different issues that might impact them.”