Kansas foster care system to pay $1.25M after child sexually assaulted in a contractor's office

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The agreement in Wyandotte County District Court comes after a child was sexually assaulted in 2018 while unsupervised.
The agreement in Wyandotte County District Court comes after a child was sexually assaulted in 2018 while unsupervised.

A court settlement Thursday will require the Kansas foster care system to pay $1.25 million after a child sleeping in a contractor’s office was sexually assaulted in 2018.

A foster child, referred to as D.D. in court documents, spent a month sleeping in the office of foster care contractor KVC Kansas before the assault. The child, who was 13 years old at the time of the assault, was removed from home as the state investigated allegations of child abuse.

An 18-year-old with a history of sexual abusing others, referred to M.H. in court documents, was put at the same office, attorneys said in court documents. KVC was understaffed and didn’t have enough people to watch all the children at once, and the sexual assault happened while D.D. was left unattended.

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Kansas, foster care contractor warned not to place teen near other youths

KVC and DCF knew of M.H.'s past and were warned by family not to put the juvenile with other kids, court documents show.

Mark Schloegel, a partner at Popham Law who represented D.D., said KVC and DCF blamed one another. KVC said the foster care system was so unprepared they had few options while DCF said they aren’t to blame for the contractor’s mistake. Attorneys for the victim argued both organizations are liable.

“Defendants DCF and KVC are responsible for D.D.’s sexual assault and a failure of the most basic legal responsibility under the federal and state laws and rules,” attorneys wrote in a court document.

DCF declined to comment and KVC said “the safety and wellbeing of children and families is always our highest priority.”

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Children in Kansas foster care system still sometimes sleep in offices

The assault happened in 2018 and a separate lawsuit settlement in 2020 was supposed to end the practice of putting children in offices, but it hasn’t stopped. One higher needs child spent a month in state offices because there was no home to put them in, the Kansas News Service reported.

Schloegel hopes this case will spur improvements in the Kansas foster care system.

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“These kids, they don't have advocates, they don't have people looking out for their best interest,” he said. “I hope a case like this makes the state wake up; makes these contractors wake up. If you can hit them in the pocketbook, they're going to change their behaviors.”

Blaise Mesa reports on criminal justice and social services for the Kansas News Service in Topeka.

This article originally appeared on Topeka Capital-Journal: Kansas foster care system to pay $1.25M after child sexually assaulted