‘Secrecy is killing children’: Kansas child welfare system refuses to unseal records on abused, deceased kids: Report

Kansas police say that since 2014, at least 81 children who were supposed to be monitored by the Kansas Department for Children and Families (DCF) died from abuse and neglect. The public is now fighting back in record numbers and demanding a change to help stop further preventable deaths, according to The Kansas City Star.

Evan Brewer

In Sept. 2017, Wichita police confirmed that the remains of a toddler found buried inside a cement structure in a residential home were of Evan Brewer. As CrimeOnline previously reported, Miranda Miller, 36, the boy’s mother, was arrested on suspicion of aggravated interference with parental custody after the child’s father, Carlo Brewer, went to residence at 2037 South Vine in Wichita, searching for his son. Brewer never found his son, although Miller had no custodial rights to the boy.

Miller’s boyfriend, 40-year-old Stephen Bodine, was also arrested on suspicion of aggravated assault and aggravated interference with parental custody, after he allegedly threatened the boy’s father and stepmother, and popped their car tire with a hatchet after they approached him about Evan’s whereabouts.

Evan Brewer
Wichita police confirmed that the remains of a toddler found earlier this month, buried inside a cement structure in a residential home, were of Evan Brewer. [Photo: Family Handout]
The boy’s family was concerned about Evan in the months prior to his death, and tried to get state agencies to step in before the boy disappeared. In March, Carlo Brewer told police he had not seen his son in over a month and begged for assistance. In May, he filed a Protection from Abuse Order (PFA) and according to the order, there were signs of abuse filed by DCF that spanned back to 2016.

READ More: Court docs reveal mother previously abused toddler boy found dead, sealed in concrete

Court records indicated that Miller had abused Evan while in her care. She was accused of leaving the boy in filthy clothes and dirty diapers. Another court document stated that Bodine had beaten Evan so severely that the child needed CPR. Yet, somehow, Miller still had the child in 2017. Police said they tried on several occasions to serve Miller with the PFA papers, but they couldn’t locate her.

In Nov., local station KWCH sent a request to DCF, asking for records to outline the abuse complaints against Miller. The agency denied the request and said the records are sealed.

“We just have very little faith at this point that justice can be served in the criminal courts given the frequent and repeated refusal to cooperate with us,” said Carlo Brewer’s lawyer, Shayla Johnston.

Although Miller in Bodine remain behind bars, they still haven’t been charged with Evan’s murder. The Wichita judge who decided to seal DCF records said that there still isn’t enough evidence to show Evan was neglect or abused, despite the fact that the boy was found dead and sealed in cement inside the home his mother and her boyfriend rented.

Caleb Blansett

In Dec. 2014, the mother of 10-year-old Caleb Blansett called 911 and said she stabbed her son to death. The Wichita Eagle reports that court records indicate that 33-year-old Lindsey Nicole Blansett crept into her son’s bedroom just before midnight and hit him over the head with a rock. She then “stabbed him with a knife multiple times until he was dead,” before calling 911 and admitting what she did.

Court records show that shortly after the little boy’s death, Kansas DCF arrived at his father Clint Blansett’s home and asked him to sign paperwork and agree to never talk about his son’s death and DCF with the media.

Caleb Blansett was stabbed to death while sleeping in his own bed. [Feature Photo: Family Handout]
“It was a gag order,” Blansett said. “She was there for DCF; she wasn’t there for me…. She was there to ensure that I wouldn’t speak to the press. That was her only concern.”

Neglect reports against Lindsey Blansett dated back to 2012. A timeline on the report outlined a series of allegations that Lindsey Blansett failed to care for her son. DCF determined on several occasions that Caleb was OK after his mother refused services offered by the agency.

Clint Blansett told the Kansas City Star that he battled Kansas DCF for years. Further, a “high-level DCF supervisor,” Dianne Keech, told the paper that employees were instructed to shred all paperwork once a child dies.

“Secrecy is killing children. I couldn’t sleep because there are so many child deaths and if we don’t review them right, we’re not going to make any changes. More children will get hurt. … Nobody wanted to change anything. The fight was so big and I felt so small.” – Dianne Keech

Adrian Jones

Adrian Jones was just 7 years old in 2015, when he died from severe abuse and neglect, reportedly by the hands of his own father and stepmother. For years prior to his death, Adrian was beaten, starved, and neglected regularly after DCF took the boy away from his mother and gave his father, Michael Jones, custody of him and his two siblings. Adrian was allegedly taken from one abusive parent and placed into the care of another abusive one without DCF intervening and failing to put the child into protective custody.

READ More: ‘You wouldn’t hear his cries’: Exclusive details on Adrian Jones horrific torture and death, and why no one stopped it

Later, after Adrian died, his father and stepmother allegedly fed him to pigs.

Adrian Jones
Before and after photos of Adrian Jones. [Photo: Handout]
Court records indicate that DCF had a report on the boy at least 2,000 pages long. Keech said by looking over the report that it was obvious that the boy should have been taken into protective custody.

“Why are we saying that children who are at high risk for abuse, who have injuries, who are actually reporting being physically abused, why are we saying they’re safe and leaving them in the home?” Keesh asked, according to KSHB.

In August, Adrian’s family members filed a lawsuit against numerous defendants, including DCF, for failing to protect him. According to court records, DCF and Missouri’s Department of Social Services received a at least 10 hotline calls from people reporting that the boy was being abused, yet he was never taken from the home. Instead of removing Adrian from the home, DCF asked Jones to sign a paper that promised he would keep his collection of firearms out of the boy’s reach.

From 2011 to 2015, reports were made after Jones and his wife allegedly spanked Adrian until he bled, kicked him in the head, threw him on the floor, taped up his arms and legs, withheld food, and repeatedly tortured him. In November 2015, authorities found the little boy’s remains inside a pigsty at the family’s Wyandotte County home.

Demands for Answers

Demands for answers reached an all-time high this year after information about Adrian’s abuse surfaced in court. While the state boasts being named the as part country’s safest in the Child & Family Services Review, others claim the state is more worried about being praised than actually protecting children.

“In some ways it’s surreal,” Sen. Laura Kelly said “We are sitting there talking about a 7-year-old or a 5-year-old who died a torturous death in the system and the system’s response to that is, ‘Look at all these blue ribbons we’ve won.’ Not, ‘What can we do to make sure it doesn’t happen again?’ 

DCF, on the other hand, disagreed, and claimed that they in no way “stonewall or mislead.” Social workers defend themselves by claiming they are overworked and have too many caseloads. Earlier this year, a lawmaker proposed to make all records public once a child died or was seriously injured, unless it was proven that opening records would cause significant harm to the child’s siblings.

Immediately, according to The Kansas City Star, DCF went into “defense mode,” and said releasing records would violate federal law.

The answers, however, could possibly be on the way. In June, the Kansas Legislature passed a bill signed by Gov. Sam Brownback that created a child welfare task force to dig into the issues concerning DCF. Sen. Julia Lynn hopes that the new bill is at least a start into the overwhelming problem concerning child abuse and neglect in Kansas.

“This is their collective job,” Lynn said. “The job is not being done. It is my hope and desire that the task force will provide clear purpose and direction with aggressive standards and outcomes to hold all agencies and providers accountable.”

[Feature Photo: Family Handout]