WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Lawmakers are expressing outrage after learning more than 70 foster children are missing in Kansas.
Foster care contractors provided the information during a meeting Tuesday in response to questions about the disappearance of three sisters from a northeast Kansas foster home, The Kansas City Star reports. Police believe the still-missing girls — ages 15, 14 and 12 — ran away in August.
Sen. Laura Kelly, a Topeka Democrat, told a child welfare task force meeting that when she asked DCF about the missing children on Tuesday, the agency knew nothing. She said after the meeting that she was “flabbergasted.”
The Kansas Department for Children and Families’ chief, Phyllis Gilmore, said after the meeting that she can’t discuss the missing sisters. She said that in many cases, children seeking to get out of foster care go back to their biological families or other people with whom they have a relationship.
“So it isn’t always a tragedy, but some certainly can be and that’s why we have to take it all very seriously,” Gilmore said.
KVC Kansas, one of the foster care contractors, said it has roughly 38 missing children. The other company, Saint Francis Community Services, said 36 are missing in its system.
Chad Anderson, chief clinical officer at KVC Kansas, told the child welfare task force that the number of missing represented about 1 percent of the foster care population and is in line with the national average. Still, he acknowledged the contractor could do a better job.
“I don’t know that we as contractors have shared as much in terms of missing youth and the day to day as we probably should,” Anderson said, adding that contractors update DCF every 30 days on the missing children.
Rep. Linda Gallagher, a Lenexa Republican, said she was shocked at the number of missing children. Even if the number missing is in line with the national average, she said, it is still too many.
Rep. Steve Alford, a Ulysses Republican who chairs the task force, said after the meeting he wasn’t really surprised.
“There’s a break between DCF and the contracting,” he said. “Once the children … (go from the court) into the possession of the secretary, she hands them off to the contractors and it’s their responsibility, you know, it’s kind of like out of sight, out of mind in a lot of aspects.”