To the shock of lawmakers, companies running the foster care system in Kansas revealed that approximately 74 foster children are missing in the state.
The Kansas City Star reported that state politicians were equally outraged that Kansas Department of Children and Families (DCF) Secretary Phyllis Gilmore was seemingly unaware that three sisters have been missing from their Tonganoxie foster home since August 26.
The revelation was brought forth Tuesday during a meeting of the Child Care Task Force, a group aimed at holding DCF responsible, KAKE pointed out.
State Sen. Laura Kelly said she asked the agency about missing sisters Emily, 15, Aimee, 14, and Christin Utter, 12, and they knew nothing, according to The Star.
“I am flabbergasted,” Kelly told the paper. “I used to work in this world years and years ago and I understand that where you have teenagers, you will have runners, and they will go and they will do this kind of stuff.”
“But the fact that the person in charge of the wards of the state has no idea that these kids are missing from her custody is just astounding to me.”
KVC Kansas, a foster care contractor, revealed that 38 children are missing from the program. Another company, Saint Francis Community Services, claimed 36 are unaccounted for.
“That is very disturbing. I’m actually appalled by hearing that, but it doesn’t surprise me hearing that at all,” state Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau told KAKE.
She went on to say that using contractors makes it harder to demand accountability.
Kelly inquired Tuesday about Utter sisters’ case after The Star published a story about their disappearance. The girls are believed to have run away from the home of their foster parent and great-aunt, Debbie Miller, in late August.
Tonganoxie Police Lt. Jarrod Gill said the girls were possibly having trouble at home. However, he said there is no evidence that the sisters were being abused.
“We just want them to know that we love them, that we just want them to come home,” Miller said. “And it doesn’t matter what’s happened. We can work through whatever we need [to].”
Gill said he believed the girls were getting assistance from one or more persons.
In response to the backlash, DCF released a statement Wednesday, which can be read below, that highlighted procedures on how to report a missing foster child.
“We want to assure the public that protocols are in place, and have been for many years, to ensure that when children run away from their foster care placement, every effort is made to locate them and return them to a safe and appropriate foster care home or facility,” DCF Secretary Gilmore said.
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