KU News: KU-led grant will empower underserved communities to address racial disparities in state’s child welfare system

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KU-led grant will empower underserved communities to address racial disparities in state’s child welfare system

LAWRENCE — Despite growing national attention on racial inequities in the child welfare system, Kansas has seen the disproportionality experienced by Black and Indigenous children increase during the last five years in the foster care system. A new partnership led by the University of Kansas will empower members of these underserved communities to identify and address the problems of racial bias and inequity in the system.

Kansas Geological Survey report assesses health of the High Plains Aquifer

LAWRENCE — A new publication from the Kansas Geological Survey summarizes current regional conditions of the High Plains Aquifer and evaluates progress toward sustaining the largest groundwater resource in the state. It also showcases the progress made in areas that have adopted voluntary water conservation measures to reduce groundwater pumping and extend the life of the aquifer.

Nazi plans for dividing and ‘improving’ Africa during World War II examined

LAWRENCE — A new article in the Journal of Modern History by a University of Kansas professor of history examines how German technocrats created revisionist plans to “unscramble” Africa in the 1930s. Bureaucrats and colonial lobbyists in Nazi Germany helped produce such projects but also oriented them toward the realization of fascist imperial goals.

KPR’s Big Band Christmas will celebrate the joy of jazz

LAWRENCE – Kansas Public Radio will return with the Big Band Christmas holiday jazz concert, featuring the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra and special guest Ron Gutierrez. Join KPR at 8 p.m. Dec. 9 at Liberty Hall. Doors will open at 7 p.m. Tickets may be purchased via Ticketmaster or at the Liberty Hall box office.

Full stories below.

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Contact: Mike Krings, KU News Service, 785-864-8860, [email protected], @MikeKrings

KU-led grant will empower underserved communities to address racial disparities in state’s child welfare system

LAWRENCE — Despite growing national attention on racial inequities in the child welfare system, Kansas has seen the disproportionality experienced by Black and Indigenous children increase during the last five years in the foster care system.

A new partnership led by the University of Kansas will empower members of these underserved communities to identify and address the problems of racial bias and inequity in the system as shown by disproportionality index, the ratio of percent in foster care versus percent in child population.

The Children’s Bureau; the Administration on Children, Youth, and Families; and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services have awarded a five-year, $2.5 million grant to fund Kansas Bravely Rising and Activating Voices for Equity, or Kansas BRAVE. The initiative will pair researchers from KU’s School of Social Welfare with agencies of the child welfare system from across the state, community advocacy organizations and people with lived expertise to develop solutions and opportunities.

“Why that’s important, to me, is it’s really working with the community. There will be a big emphasis on including the youth voices in developing the solutions to what they have seen and the resulting inequities they’ve experienced in the child welfare system,” said Pegah Naemi Jimenez, research associate in the KU social welfare school and principal investigator on the grant.

Naemi Jimenez and co-principal investigator Becci Akin, professor of social welfare, will form a partnership with three subrecipients: The Racial Equity Collaborative Inc., Kansas Family Advisory Network and Culture Creations Inc.

“We see our partners as bringing youth and family voices to the table but also keeping accountable those who advance the responses and solutions to these issues,” Naemi Jimenez said of the other recipients. “I see my role as bringing people together to build advisory groups. For example, adults and providers, but also youth, because their experiences can guide what needs to happen. They’ll have the best ideas and solutions.”

Data on racial inequities in child welfare show that the inequities exist along the entire continuum of services.

“For example, Black and Indigenous children are more likely to be investigated and removed from their homes. Once in foster care, they are less likely to be placed with a relative, have continuity and stability in their foster care placements, and return home to their own families and communities,” Akin said.

The project will also be largely guided by the Strengths Perspective, an approach pioneered by KU’s social welfare school that focuses on what an individual or entity does well and uses it as a starting point to address issues, instead of focusing first on a problem or deficit. Through Kansas BRAVE, that approach will put community members who have experienced racial disparities in the system at the forefront of discussions to co-create and co-lead solutions.

The Kansas BRAVE initiative will undertake three strategies to address the system’s disparities.

Four Questions is a community-based approach in which judges, caseworkers, law enforcement and others ask questions in cases in which a child is facing removal from the home. Those questions, addressing issues of safety, family connections and home permanence, have proven effective at reducing removal rates by as much as half in other states. The project will review the approach for use in Kansas.

The second is community forums, which will bring together people who touch the child welfare system in some way, including judges, caseworkers, teachers, medical professionals, police and others who call Child Protective Services. The initiative will offer them tools and interventions to work with families in less harmful ways when dealing with situations that can result in a child’s removal from the home.

Finally, the Brave Space Framework will be offered to agency and community organizations to engage in an anti-racist learning journey to help them assess their operations, identify their goals or changes they’d like to make and use that shared purpose to improve their work in a way that is more than a onetime workshop on diversity.

While Black and Brown families are a small percentage of the population, Naemi Jimenez said they can have strength in numbers when collaborating with the partners in Kansas BRAVE.

“I think this is the time to build these collaborations between families, youths and people who work in the child welfare system to address these issues together,” Naemi Jimenez said. “We will do this work with people who have been marginalized and who are the experts on what needs to happen to do better.”

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Contact: Julie Tollefson, Kansas Geological Survey, 785-864-2114, [email protected]

Kansas Geological Survey report assesses health of the High Plains Aquifer

LAWRENCE — A new publication from the Kansas Geological Survey at the University of Kansas assesses current conditions and trends in water levels and groundwater usage in the High Plains Aquifer, the state’s most economically important groundwater resource.

The report summarizes current regional conditions of the aquifer and evaluates progress toward sustaining or prolonging the life of the largest groundwater resource in the state. It also showcases the progress made in areas that have adopted voluntary water conservation measures to reduce groundwater pumping and extend the life of the aquifer.

“The availability of more than 25 years’ worth of high-quality water-level and water-use data for the aquifer makes it possible to provide a sound assessment of the aquifer status,” said Donald Whittemore, KGS emeritus senior scientist and lead author of “2023 Status of the High Plains Aquifer in Kansas, KGS Technical Series 25.” “The results can help irrigators, groundwater management districts, and other local and state agencies determine how successful conservation efforts have been.”

The High Plains Aquifer, which underlies portions of eight states from South Dakota to Texas, is the primary source of water for western Kansas. It includes the Ogallala Aquifer of western Kansas and the Great Bend Prairie and Equus Beds aquifers in the south-central part of the state.

The new publication provides data for each of the state’s five groundwater management districts, created to provide local management of water resources. All five GMDs overlie the High Plains aquifer.

Groundwater levels in the Ogallala portion of the aquifer (GMDs 1, 3 and 4) have dropped significantly since the start of widespread irrigation of cropland in the 1940s and 1950s. In some areas, less than 40% of the original aquifer thickness remains.

This new assessment found that groundwater levels could be sustained — defined as a zero water-level change — in most of the imperiled areas of western Kansas for at least one to two decades by reducing pumping between 18% and 32%.

In south-central Kansas, the Equus Beds aquifer in GMD2 has seen stable water levels during the last 25 years while the GMD5 Big Bend Prairie region shows a slight decline. The pumping reduction needed to achieve districtwide stable water levels in GMD5 is 1.6%.

Analysis of data gathered in GMD1 in west-central Kansas and a part of GMD4 in northwest Kansas show water conservation measures adopted in these areas have slowed the rate of water use and water-level declines. By determining water use under similar climatic conditions before and after conservation measures were implemented, KGS researchers were able to determine how much reduction in pumping could be attributed to irrigation efficiency and how much was the result of a decrease in irrigated area.

In Sheridan County in GMD4, the state’s first Local Enhanced Management Area (LEMA), the Sheridan-6 LEMA, has realized water savings attributed to irrigation efficiency of about 23%, with an additional 1% of savings related to a decrease in irrigated area, since it began operation in 2013. The average annual groundwater level decline in the SD-6 LEMA for 2013–2022 was 0.5 feet compared to 2 feet in the pre-LEMA years of 2002-2012. LEMAs allow local stakeholders to develop plans to reduce irrigation pumping in a specified area. GMDs and the Kansas Department of Agriculture Division of Water Resources oversee compliance monitoring and enforcement.

The success of the Sheridan-6 LEMA led to the formation of a districtwide LEMA in GMD4 in 2018. That LEMA has yet to have a significant effect on water use or water-level declines.

Two LEMAs have been established in GMD1, the first in Wichita County in 2021 and the second in the district’s four other counties in spring 2023. Water Conservation Areas — conservation plans submitted by individual producers — were established in all five counties before the LEMAs were formed.

Analysis showed a total reduction in pumping districtwide in GMD1 of about 24%, with 10.5% due to irrigation efficiency and nearly 14% due to decreases in irrigated acreage.

Wichita County has seen reductions in pumping of about 40%. Water levels in parts of this county and other areas in the district have fallen so low that large-scale irrigation pumping has been reduced or is no longer possible. As a result, farmers are adjusting by reducing acreage, changing cropping patterns and adopting technologies to reduce water usage.

“Our results show that the only way to slow water-level declines is to reduce pumping in conjunction with modification of agricultural practices,” said Jim Butler, KGS senior scientist and one of the report’s co-authors. “Use of more efficient irrigation technology by itself will not slow these declines. As has been shown in Kansas and elsewhere, efficient irrigation technology must be coupled with a binding agreement to reduce pumping if we are to make a difference.”

In GMD3 in southwest Kansas, where several WCAs but no LEMAs have been established, groundwater use since 2019 appears to have dropped by nearly 13% compared to 2005-2018.

“The considerable noise in these data make it difficult to say for sure, so additional years of monitoring are needed to confirm this reduction and how much is the result of decreases in irrigated area or decreases in irrigation application rates,” Butler said.

The KGS and the KDA-DWR measure groundwater levels in 1,400 wells across the High Plains Aquifer annually. In addition, water-right holders are required to report water use annually to the KDA-DWR, which verifies them through various means.

“2023 Status of the High Plains Aquifer in Kansas” by Whittemore, Butler and Brownie Wilson is available both in print and online. Two online-only appendices provide additional information. Print copies may be purchased at the Kansas Geological Survey in Lawrence, at the Kansas Geologic Sample Repository in Wichita or by contacting the KGS publications sales office.

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Contact: Jon Niccum, KU News Service, 785-864-7633, [email protected]

Nazi plans for dividing and ‘improving’ Africa during World War II examined

LAWRENCE — While Germany’s 1939 invasion of Poland marks the official start of World War II, one of the major on-ramps to war was the Italian invasion of Ethiopia four years earlier.

“This introduced fascism’s threat to European peace and order by threatening the colonial balance of power in Africa,” said Andrew Denning, an associate professor of history at the University of Kansas.

How the Axis powers intended for Africa to factor into this global conflict — and how those plans fell apart — is the subject of his latest article.

“Unscrambling Africa: From Eurafrican Technopolitics to the Fascist New Order” examines how German technocrats created revisionist plans to “unscramble” Africa in the 1930s. Bureaucrats and colonial lobbyists in Nazi Germany helped produce such projects but also oriented them toward the realization of fascist imperial goals. Although these blueprints were never implemented, they indicate how interwar empire-building in Africa connected Nazi Germany to other powers in Europe. It appears in the Journal of Modern History.

“It’s important we study plans that never come to be,” Denning said. “There are lots of things we can learn about the way societies function — and the ideologies and mentalities that operate within them — if we look at the kinds of utopias they imagine. For all of the Nazi movement’s dystopian outcomes, we have to recognize that many Germans thought they were constructing utopia.”

These plans were elaborated when most of the African continent was controlled by European powers, a relic of the global competition of the 1880s termed the “scramble for Africa.”

“The scramble for Africa produced a checkerboard of different European colonies. What Nazi and Italian Fascist officials wanted was not necessarily to conquer all of these areas but redistribute them to better represent the balance of power in the 1930s. This would obviously leave Germany and Italy in possession of much larger territories. But also, interestingly, they believed that this unscrambling would lead to much more European cooperation,” Denning said.

Despite Germany’s descent into fascism, African planning provided an opportunity for those skeptical of the regime to still pursue their work. Scientists, engineers, geographers, chemists and agronomists willingly took part in this venture in pursuit of what they often saw as rational forms of colonial development, Denning said.

Those plans included building continental-scale infrastructures such as roads, railways and air connections. But, not surprisingly given the Nazis’ agenda, these experts gave scant thought to the effects of such transformations on the lives of 130 million Africans, according to Denning.

“German planners occasionally mentioned African residents as needed laborers for their grandiose projects but rarely described how they might be affected by this, let alone how these developments might benefit Africans. That’s where we really see the extremity of some of these plans,” he said.

While researching this topic, Denning said he was most surprised to learn how close Nazi ideas about ruling Africa were to other nations.

“German plans to ground colonialism in infrastructure development were quite similar to those produced not only in Italy by the fascists at the same time, but by the British, French and Belgians of the 1920s and ’30s as well,” he said.

Like planners in those other European nations, those in the Third Reich aspired to fuse Europe and Africa into “Eurafrica.” They wanted to move away from the old methods of merely extracting resources from the continent and instead establish it as a place where reciprocity could exist to the mutual benefit of both regions, although the scale always tipped toward Europe.

He said, “This is an area in which their ideas are very much inspired by, in conversation with and often running in parallel to what their eventual enemies in World War II thought and did.”

A KU faculty member since 2015, Denning’s expertise is in 20th century European history. He is also the recently appointed director of KU’s Museum Studies Program. His latest book, “The Interwar World” (Routledge, 2023), focuses on the turbulent period of 1918-1939.

If the Axis powers had won the war, what would Africa look like today?

“Although historians are loath to engage in counterfactual history, the idea was that the Germans and their Italian allies would operate Africa collaboratively to develop massive, continent-spanning infrastructures not stopped or divided by territorial borders,” Denning said.

“They were thinking about a way of ruling in Africa that would benefit Europeans of all kinds of nationalities … but certainly not benefit Africans.”

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Don’t miss new episodes of “When Experts Attack!,”

a KU News Service podcast hosted by Kansas Public Radio.

https://kansaspublicradio.org/when-experts-attack

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Contact: Emily Fisher, Kansas Public Radio, 785-864-0190, [email protected], @kprnews

KPR’s Big Band Christmas will celebrate the joy of jazz

LAWRENCE – Kansas Public Radio will return with the Big Band Christmas holiday jazz concert for another year of festive cheer. Join KPR staff members at 8 p.m. Dec. 9 at Liberty Hall. Doors will open at 7 p.m.

The concert will feature a night of swingin’ Yuletide favorites with the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra, an internationally acclaimed performing arts group providing jazz entertainment and education to the Kansas City area and beyond. Formed in 2003, the ensemble brings together 19 area musicians, including direction from bandleader and trumpeter Clint Ashlock. Special guest Ron Gutierrez will provide vocals.

This year, general admission seats have been expanded from the balcony to include a select number of seats on the main level of the theatre. All general admission seats are first come, first served, so attendees are encouraged to arrive early.

Don’t delay; this event has been known to sell out. Tickets are available for purchase at Ticketmaster.com or at the Liberty Hall box office. A service charge may be added to the order. Tickets can be purchased on the night of the concert, if available.

The event is made possible by Dr. Stephen Chronister of Healing Smiles of Topeka.

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Erinn Barcomb-Peterson, director of news and media relations, [email protected]

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