Kansas foster care system to pay $1.25 million after teen sexually assaulted at office

·2 min read

The Kansas foster care system will pay $1.25 million to settle a lawsuit alleging that a child sleeping in a contractor’s office was sexually assaulted in 2018.

In 2018, a then-13-year-old girl, who’s referred to as D.D. in court documents, was sleeping at the offices of KVC Kansas when she was sexually assaulted by an 18-year-old male, who’s referred to as M.H. in court documents.

KVC is a private, nonprofit child welfare organization that’s contracted by the Kansas Department for Children and Families.

The lawsuit against KVC and DCF was filed in 2019 in Wyandotte County District Court.

D.D. was assaulted after she was left unattended because of staffing shortages, according to court documents. At the time of the assault, she had been staying in a KVC office for about one month, after being removed from her home because of unsubstantiated allegations of abuse.

D.D. testified that, at times, there were 15 to 20 children living at the agency’s offices, according to court documents. KVC’s Olathe offices, where D.D. was staying, are not licensed placement facilities.

M.H.’s family warned KVC not to put him with other children because he had a history of sexually assault. Court documents said that he was previously in jail for sexually deviant behavior.

“(These kids) don’t deserve to be housed in offices, sleeping under tables — and then if they have to, for whatever reason, they deserve some reasonable supervision, and not to be left alone with sexual deviants,” Mark Schloegel, an attorney from Popham law firm who represented D.D., told The Star.

KVC and DCF blamed each other during litigation for violating regulations, Schloegel said.

“DCF has legal custody of all children, including D.D., who are taken into the foster care system, and is ultimately responsible for the children’s safety, permanency, and well being through the work of their contractor KVC,” Schloegel said in court documents.

Shloegel said that DCF and KVC failed to meet their legal responsibility to care for D.D.

“We do not shy away from our responsibility in this matter,” then-DCF Secretary Gina Meier-Hummel told a Kansas legislature task force in September 2018, according to court documents.

Schloegel said he hopes this case can be a wake up call for the Kansas foster care system.

“This girl deserves to have her story told,” Schloegel said. “And these kids in the foster care system in Kansas deserve better.”