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A 13-year-old ran away from a Kansas foster care facility and died driving a stolen car

A kansas highway patrol police car
Blaise Mesa
Kansas News Service

The child, who was only 13, ran away from agency Successful Dreams in late October.

TOPEKA, Kansas — A 13-year-old foster child died after running away, stealing a car and crashing.

The boy was at a Halloween event in Independence, Kansas, accompanied by staff from qualified residential treatment program Successful Dreams, said the Kansas Department for Children and Families.

The child then took the car from Tom Davis Auto Group, the Parsons Police Department said. A Kansas Highway Patrol crash report says the child was driving west on U.S. Highway 400 on Oct. 27 when the car swerved into oncoming traffic and hit a semi truck.

The child died after being taken to the hospital.

Successful Dreams didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment. DCF is investigating the incident but couldn’t comment further.

“These crashes are never easy,” Parsons Police Chief Robert Spinks said in a press release. “This hit our community hard. My sympathies go out to everyone involved. I only hope that this terrible incident (can be) learned from to avoid another senseless loss of life."

The Kansas Highway Patrol is investigating the crash.

This is the second report of a foster child who died after running away from custody this year. In April, foster child Ace Scott ran away and was found dead days later.

A federal report found that over 7% of foster children in Kansas went missing during a 30-month period, among the highest rate in the nation.

DCF spokesperson Mike Deines told the Kansas Reflector that report used an odd time period, measuring the number of runaways in a 2.5-year stretch. Daily reports show about 1% of foster kids missing at any one time. He said the agency has improved its response to runaway kids since 2019, including hiring more people who look for the children.

“They make contact with family, friends, law enforcement and other community members to better understand where the youth may be and also identify the underlying reasons for the run behavior,” Deines said. “DCF believes that if we can address the ‘why’ these youth run, then we can make better placement decisions and connect them with services in order to prevent further run episodes.”

There are currently 58 children missing, down from the 74 runaways on Aug. 1.

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.

Blaise Mesa is based in Topeka, where he covers the Legislature and state government for the Kansas City Beacon. He previously covered social services and criminal justice for the Kansas News Service.
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