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Kansas foster care will pay $1.25 million after a child was sexually assaulted in a contractor's office

Photo of the Wyandotte County Courthouse
Carlos Moreno
/
KCUR
The agreement in Wyandotte County District Court comes after the child was sexually assaulted in 2018 while unsupervised.

A foster child was sexually assaulted while left unattended in 2018. Now, the state and its private contractor are settling in court.

TOPEKA, Kansas — 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 sexually abusing others, referred to as 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.

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 both 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.”

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.

“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. You can follow him on Twitter @Blaise_Mesa or email him at blaise@kcur.org.

The Kansas News Service is a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio, KMUW and High Plains Public Radio focused on health, the social determinants of health and their connection to public policy. 

Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished by news media at no cost with proper attribution and a link to ksnewsservice.org.

As a criminal justice and social service reporter, it's my job to ensure the systems designed to help people are working as intended. Thousands of Kansans deal with the criminal justice or foster care systems each day. I strive to hold all agencies and departments accountable for the work they are doing. blaise@kcur.org.
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