Gov. Matt Bevin hired an official with the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary on Wednesday for $240,000 a year plus bonuses to overhaul Kentucky’s adoption and foster care systems.
Bevin said Daniel S. Dumas, who has been a senior vice president at the Louisville seminary since 2007, will start his state job June 19.
Dumas served in the U.S. Navy and is a published author and professor of Christian ministry and leadership. He and his wife, Jane, have two adopted sons, Aidan and Elijah. Bevin and his wife, Glenna, have nine children, four of whom are adopted.
The state’s contract to hire Dumas as a special adviser on child welfare issues is with Red Buffalo Ventures LLC in Louisville and runs from June 17 to June 30, 2018. It can be renewed for two years.
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Bevin press secretary Woody Maglinger said Dumas will serve as contractor for Red Buffalo Ventures, which is his advising company.
In addition to his base annual salary of $240,000 a year, Dumas is eligible to receive annual performance incentives not to exceed 20 percent of his base if the governor determines that he has met certain goals.
In comparison, Bevin is paid $142,977 a year as governor.
Dumas’ salary will not set well with state workers, said David Smith, executive director of the Kentucky Association of State Employees.
“I hope he’s worth the money for what he’s doing and can accomplish everything the state needs but that amount of salary speaks of disrespect for what state workers are doing,” Smith said. “Many state agencies, like social workers, are understaffed and underfunded. How many qualified people could you have hired at his salary.”
The average salary of a child or family social worker in Kentucky is $38,780, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Dumas could not be immediately reached for comment. In a news release, he vowed to be an agent of change on behalf of children and families.
“I am resolved to make our adoption and foster care system faster, safer, more affordable, and more accessible,” Dumas said. “Gov. Bevin and I are committed, along with many other Kentuckians, to not back down until every orphan in Kentucky has a loving home.”
Dumas, who will report directly to Bevin, will have offices in the Capitol and the Cabinet for Health and Family Services.
During his State of the Commonwealth address early this year, Bevin said he would appoint a “czar” with the objective of transforming Kentucky into the gold standard for adoption and foster care systems.
“There is no reason a child in Kentucky, who is ready to be adopted, should be without a family,” Bevin said Wednesday. “We have to rethink the way we do foster care in this state, and Dan Dumas is just the visionary to help lead that charge. Dan is a servant leader, and his proven track record of excellence in innovation will help us cut through the red tape currently keeping 8,000 of Kentucky’s foster children from their forever families.”
The new czar has “real potential as a catalyst for change,” but it won’t come without spending more money on children, said Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates.
“Real change is predicated on making kids a priority as the state budget is crafted,” Brooks said. “You cannot support children without investing real dollars into the system that ensure every kid is safe, healthy and resilient.”
Asked about Dumas’ salary, Brooks said his biggest worry “is that it becomes the issue and not kids. We can’t afford those kinds of distractions around this mission.”
In addition to Bevin’s new hire, the state House formed a special panel last month to try to find ways to streamline the state’s adoption system.
The number of substantiated child abuse and neglect findings in Kentucky has steadily risen from 9,934 in fiscal 2012 to 15,378 in fiscal 2016, an increase of 55 percent, according to the Kentucky Department for Community Based Services.
Of the roughly 8,000 children in Kentucky’s foster care system, about 1,200 are available for adoption.
Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said in a news release that Dumas “will continue to contribute to Southern Seminary as special assistant to the president for several strategic projects.”
Before coming to the seminary, Dumas was pastor of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, Calif., and earned degrees from Criswell College and The Master’s Seminary.
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary houses the Bevin Center for Missions Mobilization. Matt and Glenna Bevin funded the center with an endowment in 2012 to honor their daughter, Brittiney, who died in a car accident in front of the seminary.