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Government

Legislators Pushing Kansas Child Welfare Agency To Be More Transparent About Fatal Cases

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Madeline Fox
/
Kansas News Service
The Kansas Department for Children and Families is pushing legislation to reveal more about fatal child abuse cases. Now lawmakers want the agency to be even more transparent.

Kansas lawmakers moved Tuesday to make a bill to release information about the deaths of children in state custody more transparent.

In response to several high-profile cases where a child had been brought to the attention of the Department for Children and Families and later died, the bill requires the agency to release information about kids who die as a result of abuse or neglect.

Under terms of the bill, an open records request would require DCF to release the child’s age, gender, when they died and a summary of any reports they’d gotten about abuse or neglect in the child’s case. It would also have to report what the department had done in response to those reports.

Lawmakers amended it to apply those same requirements to any child who dies in the state’s custody.

Another amendment says that if the secretary or anyone else asks the court to seal records, anyone requesting the records would be notified. That would allow them to make their case to a judge about why those records should be public.

Rep. John Carmichael, who proposed the amendment, related it to the recent case of Evan Brewer. Carmichael said the Wichita Eagle filed requests for information about the death of Evan, a 3-year-old from Wichita whose remains were found encased in concrete. But the newspaper didn’t get a chance to go before a judge and argue that it should get access to the records.

The House Judiciary Committee passed the bill, with its amendments. The measure must pass the full House and the Senate to get to the governor’s desk.

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Madeline Fox is a reporter or the Kansas News Service, a collaboration of KMUW, Kansas Public Radio and KCUR covering health, education and politics. You can reach her on Twitter @maddycfox.

 
To contact KMUW News or to send in a news tip, reach us at news@kmuw.org.