A Kansas childcare contractor is accused of placing a teenage girl in an unsafe home where she was molested in 2017, according to a lawsuit filed earlier this month in the Wyandotte County District Court.
The lawsuit, filed Feb. 15 by the 22-year-old woman, alleges that as a 16-year-old she was repeatedly sexually abused and then assaulted by her adoptive parent, a 37-year-old man recruited to provide foster care services for KVC Behavioral Healthcare Inc, the largest large state reliance provider.
The organization turned her over to the foster parent in November 2016. In June of the following year, the foster parent called KVC to confess to sexually abusing the teen, but it took five months for state officials to rescind her foster license, according to the lawsuit.
The adoptive parent had “acted sexually inappropriately toward the girls on more than one occasion,” the lawsuit said. A criminal charge filed against the man in Wyandotte County in 2018 was later dropped.
The Star generally does not name victims of sexual assault without their permission. He’s not naming the man because he’s not currently charged with a crime.
KVC spokeswoman Jenny Kutz said the foster care provider was aware of the case but would not comment on the ongoing litigation.
“I can tell you that as a non-profit organization for children and families, our top priority is the safety and well-being of every child we serve,” she said in an email.
This is the second lawsuit in the last two weeks to accuse KVC of contributing to the harm of a child by placing him in an unsuitable foster home.
In the previous case, a child suffered a serious head injury in 2018 at a KVC foster home, according to a Feb. 6 lawsuit. The child’s family alleges that KVC took the baby to a “dangerously overcrowded” foster home and did not provide any safety planning services.
The plaintiff’s attorney for both cases did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
“A Serious Lack of Judgment”
The 37-year-old Kansas City, Kansas applied for a foster license, sponsored by KVC. The Kansas Department for Children and Families (DCF) approved her application by April 2014, according to the Feb. 15 lawsuit.
KVC monitored its license over the next three years. But in that time period, KVC learned that he had repeatedly acted sexually inappropriately and exercised “a gross lack of judgment toward little girls,” the lawsuit said.
On November 21, 2016, the state contractor placed a 16-year-old girl in her Wyandotte County foster home.
He sexually abused her multiple times, in a variety of locations around Kansas City, Kansas. Then, according to her lawsuit, he sexually assaulted her inside her foster home on June 15, 2017.
The man allegedly called a KVC employee and confessed to sexually abusing the teenager four days later.
DCF revoked its license on or about November 26, 2017, after it was discovered that it had committed “acts of a sexual nature towards the foster youth placed in its home.”
There are legal processes to remove a custodial parent’s license, and a person can appeal or choose to take the case to court, according to child welfare attorney Lori Burns-Bucklew.
“But I would be very concerned if I hear that there were foster children in that home while due process is being pursued,” she said.
It is unclear why her license was not revoked sooner and whether she still had adopted children. A DCF spokesman was not immediately available to comment on the case.
A 2018 criminal case in Wyandotte County charged the adoptive parent with an abusive sexual offense. The charges were dropped shortly thereafter. It cannot be found in any sex offender registry.
The teenager is now a 22-year-old female who no longer resides in Kansas City, Kansas. She says her abuse has left her suffering from wounds that she is still trying to figure out through therapy. She did not acknowledge the seriousness of the abuse. As a teenager, she had already been “subjected to severe housing deprivation… and other factors beyond [her] check.”
His lawsuit seeks $75,000 in damages from the foster care provider.
Burns-Bucklew filed a class action lawsuit in 2018 on behalf of many foster children who were being moved from foster home to foster home and were in need of mental health services.
The federal court filing said that some children had been treated so badly in foster care that they ran away from their foster homes or suffered mentally. In some cases, the children were trafficked for sex, sexually abused within foster homes, or, in one case, reportedly raped within a KVC child welfare office.
The lack of foster families has even led to some children sleeping in welfare offices.
“In general, I have concerns about whether contractors are being held sufficiently accountable by the state,” Burns-Bucklew said.
Kansas was the first in the country to privatize its foster care system, allowing several providers, such as KVC Kansas, to compete with other organizations for state contracts.
KVC Kansas spokeswoman Jenny Kutz explained in a previous interview that the group has come a long way in prioritizing mental health services and recruiting foster families since the “unprecedented surge” of foster children between 2017 and the 2019.
“Due to multiple factors, including state policy changes and juvenile justice reform, a record number of Kansas children were in foster care,” Kutz said at the time.
But the lack of foster homes has been a problem in Kansas for a long time, according to Burns-Bucklew.
“There haven’t been enough foster homes in Kansas for over a decade,” she said.