Over 70 children are missing from Kansas’ foster care system. This shocking number was revealed by two companies running the state’s foster care system at a child welfare task force meeting on Tuesday.
Phyllis Gilmore, secretary of the Kansas Department for Children and Families, was allegedly unaware of at least some of the missing children. According to the Kansas City Star, several lawmakers were furious that Gilmore seemed unaware that three sisters, ages 15, 14 and 12, have been missing since August. Emily, Aimee and Christin Utter (pictured above) have been missing for 47 days. Lt. Jarrod Gill with the Tonganoxie Police Department told the Kansas City Star that the three sisters likely ran away after experiencing problems in their home. He thinks they are probably together, and receiving assistance from at least one other person.
“I am flabbergasted,” Sen. Laura Kelly said. “I used to work in this world years and years ago and I understand that where you have teenagers, you will have runners, and they will go and they will do this kind of stuff. … But the fact that the person in charge of the wards of the state has no idea that these kids are missing from her custody is just astounding to me.”
Gilmore said in a statement Wednesday that her department has policies in place to find missing foster children quickly. She added that many children are found and returned to their foster homes.
“These children who run away are not under lock and key; they are generally in family foster homes, older youth, who attend school and activities, and they often miss their biological families,” she said, according to the Associated Press.
KVC Kansas reports they have 38 missing children while Saint Francis Community Services reports 36. Between the two, 74 children are missing, as reported by the Topeka Capital-Journal. Chad Anderson, chief clinical officer at KVC said the number matches up with the national average: 1 percent of the foster care population. But, he said his company could possibly do a better job of communicating.
“I don’t know that we as contractors have shared as much in terms of missing youth and the day to day as we probably should,” Anderson said.