Report: Embattled Agency Finds Records Altered After Boy Found Dead In Concrete

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TOPEKA, Kan. (CBS News) — The embattled Kansas Department of Children and Families has reportedly determined abuse report records were altered in the case of a three-year-old boy after the child was found dead in concrete last year, according to documents released to KSN.

The agency received eight reports that 3-year-old Evan Brewer, grandson of former Wichita mayor and gubernatorial candidate Carl Brewer, was abused before his body was found encased in concrete at a Wichita home last year, according to the documents. The child’s mother and her boyfriend are charged with murder.

According to the documents, the Kansas agency altered records after Evan’s death to cover up the fact that an abuse report was never forwarded to an assigned social worker. The May 14, 2017 report was an allegation that the mother’s boyfriend “chokes [redacted] out and then does CPR to bring him back,” KSN reports.

After the child was found dead Sept. 2, an internal review found the “record was modified so that it now inaccurately indicates that the reported information… was communicated to the assigned social worker and the social worker’s supervisor contemporaneously [at the same time] with the reporting.”

But the information about the alleged abuse wasn’t added until Sept. 5, three days after the boy was found dead, the station reports.

Recent tragedies involving children who reportedly had been abused were among several factors in the decision to oust the agency’s top official in Wichita, the department’s new leader said.

Gina Meier-Hummel, director of the Department of Children and Families, told agency workers in Wichita that she shared their concern “about recent tragedies involving children in your community, and understand on a very personal level the scrutiny the agency is under.”

She made the comment in a letter to employees on Tuesday to announce the departure of Wichita regional director Bill Gale.

Brewer’s case and the case of 5-year-old Lucas Hernandez have gained the national spotlight. Law enforcement agencies continue to search for Lucas, who’s been missing for nearly two weeks. His relatives say they had reported concerns that he was being abused to the department.

Meier-Hummel told the Eagle Thursday that Gale’s removal “was the result of having reviewed a number of situations and after having multiple discussions with staff and stakeholders,” but she didn’t mention any specific cases.

Gale’s ouster is part of Meier-Hummel’s efforts to revamp the agency she took over in December after years of controversy and criticism from lawmakers, child advocates and the public.

“If we need to replace people, we’re replacing people,” Gov. Jeff Colyer said Thursday.

However, State Rep. Tom Sawyer, a Democrat from Wichita, said he never heard complaints about Gale’s leadership and suggested he was being made a scapegoat for the agency’s problems.

Meier-Hummel said Thursday several policy changes will be announced soon but she didn’t elaborate. Some changes, such as legislation to require the release of more information when a child dies, have already been announced.

The department also is asking the legislature for a $16.5 million increase over two years for child welfare services. The money would fund 20 additional staff, eliminate the need for children waiting for foster care to sometimes sleep in offices, and pay for resources to help find children who have gone missing from foster care.

A house committee is considering the funding requests.

The Wichita Eagle reports records from the Kansas Department of Children and Families show the agency was told that Evan Brewer’s mother was regularly high on methamphetamine and was not feeding him good meals.

The boy’s father, Carlo Brewer, contacted state officials and local police over the welfare of his son before his death. The child at the time was living with his mother and her boyfriend, who are charged in the case.

Wichita Police said authorities went to the home, conducted surveillance and contacted neighbors in an effort to locate the mother, who was named in a protection from abuse order issued in July. Police concluded she was eluding law enforcement and had likely left the state.

The father’s petition for a protection from abuse order on behalf of the boy details multiple reports of abuse dating back more than a year made to the Kansas Department for Children and Families. It cites four complaints dating as far back as July 2016 and as recently as April 2017. One allegation references an injury to his nose and contends the boy was “filthy and without appropriate clothing.”

One witness statement cited in the order alleges the boy had been beaten “to the point of death” while in the mother’s care. There also were protection orders filed against the mother’s boyfriend.

The boy was never removed from the home.

The agency’s new director, Gina Meier-Hummel, said she shares the family’s outrage. She says changes to improve the system have begun and will continue.

One former official is now accusing the agency of intentionally and systematically under-reporting child deaths, according to the Ottawa Herald.

Former DCF deputy director Diane Keech said she reviewed 20 reports of child deaths in 2013, but that the agency only reported 13 fatalities to the to the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data Base that year. Keech also said that DCF employees were instructed to avoid email communications regarding child abuse cases, and told to use phone or handwritten notes instead.

In response to KSN’s questions about the documents, DCF said that “given the family’s stated desire to move to litigation, we will not be in a position to further comment or clarify.  We sincerely appreciate the family meeting with us, and as the Secretary vowed when she was appointed in December 2017, and during the conversation with this family, we will make needed changes.”

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