Kansas will step up efforts to find scores of missing foster children

It isn’t just Kansas, my guess would be that nationwide within the foster care system, 2 or three thousand kids are missing from the system……me among them. I just walked out one day and no one said anything.

Kansas will step up efforts to find scores of missing foster children
BY JONATHAN SHORMAN
TOPEKA
Kansas plans to step up efforts to find foster children missing from its care – 77 at a recent count.
The Department for Children and Families will dedicate a staff member to coordinating efforts with law enforcement to find missing children, and the leader of the agency will receive a daily report on them.
Gina Meier-Hummel detailed those efforts on Wednesday in a news conference where Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer named her to head the agency. It is his first cabinet-level selection as he waits to become governor.
"I expect to have a report on my desk every morning of the youth who are missing, and we will be taking active efforts to find
Revelations this fall that more than 70 Kansas foster children were missing shocked lawmakers. Outgoing DCF Secretary Phyllis Gilmore angered some lawmakers because she appeared unaware of the case of three Tonganoxie sisters who were missing at the time.
Seventy-seven children were missing as of Nov. 12, according to DCF. Ten were between the ages of 0 and 11, 32 were ages 12 to14, and 35 were 15 to 18.
The overall number of missing is always changing because some are found and others go missing. But the number of missing children doubled over two years, according to DCF data.
A dedicated staff member will work with law enforcement to assist efforts to find missing children, Meier-Hummel said. She mentioned watching to see if children access social media accounts as an example.
Meier-Hummel, currently the leader of The Children’s Shelter in Lawrence, also promised to tackle the problem of foster children sleeping in offices. Children sometimes stay in the offices of state foster care contractors if homes cannot be found.
She called the practice unacceptable but did not offer specifics about how to stop it. Children in state custody “deserve to have a warm, safe place to sleep at night,” she said.
Meier-Hummel, who has held positions in the past in DCF and the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services, plans to make staffing changes and strengthen reviews of child deaths. She promised a top-to-bottom review of the agency.
Meier-Hummel’s promises of reform come after at-times blistering criticism of Gilmore. Democrats had called for Gilmore to resign for years, and state audits more than a year ago found numerous agency shortcomings related to foster care.
The criticism of DCF and Gilmore has often been bipartisan. Both Republicans and Democrats voiced concerns over the missing children.
“Quite frankly, we continue to have bad news coming out of that agency,” Rep. Dan Hawkins, R-Wichita, said. “Like I’ve discussed with the lieutenant governor several times, probably the most embattled agency is DCF.”
Said Rep. Leo Delperdang, R-Wichita: "When the articles came out in the newspaper about 70 children missing, you don’t just read that and put it off. I don’t care if it’s one child missing, something’s going on here."
Colyer did not talk about Gilmore but made clear her replacement is just one step in efforts to put his stamp on the state. Colyer will become governor if Sam Brownback resigns, which is he expected to do if confirmed by the U.S. Senate to a diplomatic post.
"Today’s announcement is the first of many key changes we will be rolling out as we improve how Kansas government operates," Colyer said.
Colyer formally announced Meier-Hummel after his office confirmed her appointment on Tuesday. She will begin the job on Dec. 1, the same day Gilmore will officially leave. The Kansas Senate must eventually vote to confirm her.
Reaction to Colyer’s selection has been generally positive from lawmakers, if reserved.
"I am hopeful that she will be do what needs to be done & be diligent in protecting the children of our state," Rep. Debbie Deere, D-Lansing, said on Facebook. "Time will tell."



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Woman who beat child with brush, dropped her in tub indicted for murder


COVINGTON, La. -- A Lacombe woman was indicted for second-degree murder in the death of her 22-month-old foster child, according to the District Attorney's Office for the 22nd Judicial District.
The St. Tammany Parish grand jury indicted Trenique Faciane, 41, Tuesday.
Mother pleads guilty to killing special needs son with hand sanitizer
The indictment stems from an incident on May 22. Faciane, who is the co-owner of Wee Wisdom child care center in Slidell, is accused of beating the little girl with a hairbrush, shaking her, and then dropping her into a bathtub, according to the district attorney. The little girl later died at Children's Hospital in New Orleans.

Faciane's arraignment hearing is set for Sept. 21 before District Judge J. William Knight. Assistant District Attorney Jerry Smith will prosecute the case.



Former Tulsa Foster Care Worker Arrested For Child Porn



KATIERA WINFREY, NEWS ON 6

TULSA, Oklahoma -
A man who helped foster parents and children is now jail, accused of distributing child porn.
Police said Timothy Cheatwood admitted to using his computer to download the porn.
Investigators said Cheatwood was a respite foster parent and worked with the Bair Foundation from September 2013 to May 2014.
The Department of Human Services said a respite foster parent watches the children of other foster parents to give them a break - sort of like a baby sitter.
Now, investigators want to find out if Cheatwood had sexual contact with any of the children in his care.
9/3/2015 Related Story: Former Tulsa Foster Care Provider Accused Of Sharing Child Porn Videos
Thursday, the windows were drawn at a Tulsa house and everything was quiet in the neighborhood, but Wednesday morning was a different story, as police arrested Cheatwood.
"Thank God they got the guy and, hopefully, there was no children harmed," said neighbor Katie Hull.
Cheatwood is accused of distributing child pornography and violating the Oklahoma Computer Crimes Act.
Last month, agents started investigating a network that people use to share child porn and followed an IP address they said led back to Cheatwood.
Jessica Brown with OSBI said, "We do these often, and one month is about as quick a turnaround we can do. Often times it takes longer than that because of all the search warrants we have to obtain from the courts."
For nearly a year, DHS said Cheatwood served as a respite foster parent.
Under DHS rules, just like full-time foster parents, respite parents undergo extensive background checks, and anyone with a criminal history, including sex crimes, aren't approved.
"We know he had contact with these children. We are hoping nothing occurred there, but we are certainly suspicious about it, and we want to talk to the kids and parents of these children to make sure nothing happened," Brown said.
Katie Hull lives up the street from where Cheatwood was arrested. She said the day of the arrest she saw Cheatwood mowing his lawn, then, shortly after that she saw hordes of unmarked police cars.
She said it's shocking to know someone accused of such a horrible crime was arrested in her neighborhood, but she's impressed with how fast police work.
Hull said, "They follow through and they do get justice, you just have to believe in it."
According to DHS, Cheatwood's stint as a foster parent was short.
We reached out to the foundation Cheatwood worked under, but haven't been told why his paperwork with the agency was closed after serving less than a year.
Investigators are asking foster parents who used Cheatwood to care for their foster children to please call the OSBI.


Foster child, left in car in church parking lot, dies in Baltimore County


By Julie Zauzmer August 31 2015

A toddler died in Baltimore County when her foster mother left her in a car outside a church, county police reported Monday.
Cpl. John Wachter said Monday that the police department’s homicide unit investigates all deaths of children, but that as of Monday, 10 days after the girl died, her death is not being considered a homicide.
That may change after the state medical examiner’s office completes its examination, Wachter said.
Police said in a statement Monday that the 13-month-old girl, Paris Bena Hall, was with her foster mother Aug. 21.
The woman worked at Shiloh Baptist Church in Edgemere and planned to take the baby to the day care next to the church. She parked, had a conversation in the church parking lot, then walked inside the church.
Wachter said that police do not know how long the woman was inside the church. They know that when she came outside about noon, she found the girl in the car and called 911.
The child was in cardiac arrest, and the woman attempted CPR.
The child died at a hospital later that day.

Julie Zauzmer is a local news reporter.


Mother of toddler found dead in Auburn dies


 Travis Andersen

GLOBE STAFF  SEPTEMBER 03, 2015
The mother of a 2-year-old girl who died less than three weeks ago in foster care in Auburn succumbed to an apparent drug overdose on Wednesday, officials said.
Worcester police said in a statement that officers were called to an Orne Street apartment at about 3 p.m. for an “unresponsive female,” later identified as Jessica Conway, 27.
She was taken to UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester, where she was later pronounced dead, a hospital spokesman said.
Police said investigators believe “that the cause of death may be drug related based on information provided by family members in addition to evidence collected inside the apartment. However, the exact cause of death is pending until the completion of a post-mortem examination and the, final result of toxicology. This is an active and ongoing investigation.”
Conway, who had battled drug addiction, was the mother of Avalena Conway-Coxon, 2, who died suddenly in foster care in Auburn on Aug. 15. Authorities have not released a cause of death for the child, and no criminal charges have been filed in connection with the case.
Shortly after Avalena’s passing, Conway told the Globe that she was numb with grief and also criticized the state Department of Children and Families, which was tasked with monitoring her daughter while she was in foster care.
“It’s hit me, but it hasn’t hit me,” she said. “I’ll never see my precious baby for the rest of my life,” she said.
Conway said that she struggled with drugs over the past seven years and that she was in the midst of completing a live-in drug rehabilitation program.
“That was my number one motivation to get clean; to get back, to get back to her,” she said.
She had said the DCF “makes it increasingly hard to work with families,” and called for change in the agency’s handling of children in foster homes.
“Something needs to be done,” Conway said. “They need to do something about my daughter’s death.”
A DCF spokeswoman on Wednesday referred all questions to law enforcement. The agency has previously confirmed that child welfare officials visited the Auburn home where Avalena had been staying four days before her death.
The Worcester district attorney’s office could not be reached for comment on Wednesday night.
Calls to numbers listed for Conway’s parents were not returned, and a number for Avalena’s biological father Ronald Green Jr., was not in service.
On Sunday, the Globe reported that Conway was 25 and battling heroin addiction when she gave birth to Avalena on Aug. 10, 2013.
In the days before Avalena died, Conway’s Facebook page was filled with pictures of her little girl.
“Mommy loves u n im working hard to be together again XOXOX,” she wrote.
Conway had also posted a recovery message on her Facebook page shortly after losing her daughter.
“I will be in recovery for the rest of my days,” the message read in part. “Today I am grateful to be alive and drug-free.”
Evan Allen, Jan Ranson, Nestor Ramos, and Astead W. Herndon of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Travis Andersen can be reached attravis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.