13-year-old Foster Boy Dies In Stolen Pickup In Kansas; Congressman Asks For Reform

The foster youngster who died last week in Kansas is being investigated by the state’s child welfare agency after he fled his residential treatment facility, stole a truck, and collided head-on with a tractor trailer.
The Department of Children and Families reports that the 13-year-old boy who crashed on October 27 in southeast Kansas passed away from his injuries on October 30 at a hospital in Tulsa.

On the day of the accident, the kid had attended a Halloween party in Independence, Kansas, hosted by Successful Dreams, the licensed residential treatment facility where he was being cared for.

Child welfare officials and police in Parsons, Kansas, say the adolescent left the residential facility after returning from the party and stole the truck from an auto dealership.

According to a DCF description of events, the agency is “investigating the incident” and “reviewing the facility to determine if there were any regulatory violations.”

Upon hearing the tragic news of the foster teen’s murder on Friday, a Republican senator with an interest in child welfare urged Governor Laura Kelly to fire Laura Howard from her position as DCF secretary. This is the second death of a teen who ran away from foster care since April.

Louisburg’s Sen. Molly Baumgardner stated she had called for Howard’s removal following “conversation with Senate leadership.”

Concerns concerning the lack of openness and responsibility for the protection of our foster children have persisted,” Baumgardner said in a statement to The Star. All of the problems are becoming increasingly urgent.

Having two young teenagers die while in DCF custody in the past six months is completely unacceptable.On Friday night, Baumgardner received a reply to his request from the governor’s office.

Brianna Johnson, the governor’s director of communications, said, “This is a heartbreaking instance, and Governor Kelly has directed DCF to examine what happened and whether any policy violations led to this accident.” We cannot properly address any call for action until we have all of the facts.

Four days before the election, Baumgardner has called to express his support for Republican Attorney General Derek Schmidt, who is running against Republican gubernatorial nominee Megan Kelly. Kelly and Schmidt were tied in the polls this week right before the election.

Schmidt has made care for foster children one of his campaign priorities. He has stated his opinion that Kelly did not do enough to improve the situation. Schmidt’s single proposal is to legally establish an Office of Child Advocate. Last year, Kelly issued an order establishing the position.

Democrat from Merriam and DCF collaborator Rep. Jarrod Ousley disagrees with Baumgardner’s suggestion that Kelly should fire Howard as secretary. There have been fewer children in DCF custody since Howard became director, he added, and more attention has been paid to putting children with relatives.

The system has also advanced toward achieving several of the criteria stated in a class action lawsuit settlement, but not all of them.

It’s clear that under Laura Howard’s leadership, the Kansas child welfare system has made great strides, as attested by Ousley. The need for responsibility is constant regardless of who is in charge of a crisis. But I do think that Laura Howard has done a terrific job here.”

As members of the Joint Committee on Child Welfare Oversight, Ousley and Baumgardner work together to monitor the system.

Baumgardner acknowledged that “some questions about timeliness” would be raised by her request that Howard be fired. But she claimed that Kelly and Howard had a hand in setting the schedule. Baumgardner said the child passed away last week, but no one found out about it until this past Friday.

DCF did not reply to The Star’s concerns regarding when the agency first disclosed information about the teen or if officials should have told the public about his death at the time it occurred.

The Parsons Police Department claimed in a press statement on Monday that the adolescent was reported as a “runaway from Successful Dreams.”

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