'This is not a secret:' KVC speaks out on missing foster care children

More than 70 foster children are missing

KANSAS – One of the companies that runs the state's foster care system is speaking out after it was exposed that more than 70 foster children are missing.

Kansas State Sen. Laura Kelly brought light to the issue during a child welfare task force meeting Tuesday.

By Wednesday morning, people across Kansas were outraged that the agencies that monitor foster children don't know where some of the children are.

Jenny Kutz, spokesperson for KVC Kansas, said most of the children who've gone missing from foster care are runaways.

"It's a problem, it's heartbreaking, but it's not unique," Kutz said. "It's the case in every state."

More than 7,000 children are in the foster care system in Kansas, according to a press release issued by the Kansas Department for Children and Families.

Kutz said the number of missing foster children represent 1 percent of the total foster care population in Kansas. 

Kutz also said that children go missing or run away regardless of the type of setting they live in, and foster children aren't exempt from the issue.

According to data from National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, there were 20,500 reported cases of missing children in 2016.

Of those, 90 percent were runaways. 

Kutz told 41 Action News Investigators that when a child in the foster care system goes missing, KVC immediately contacts state authorities.

The Kansas Department for Children and Families also receives monthly reports from its contractors, including KVC, on missing children.

Kutz said that information is always accessible online. 

"This is not a secret," Kutz said. "There are staff in each state looking for these children, contacting local authorities. It's a problem -- just as if our own children went missing."

Federal Law requires each state to notify the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) when a foster care child goes missing.

In Kansas, the Kansas Bureau of Investigations (KBI) is responsible for collecting the data.

When it comes to foster care children, Kutz said Kansas is in line with the national average for children who've gone missing.

41 Action News Investigators reached out to KBI and NCMEC to confirm that information but had not received the data as of Wednesday evening. 

Kutz said KVC Kansas closely monitors children who are in foster care. She said both the children and parents have separate caseworkers. She also said school employees work closely with the children, as well as therapists.

"We are in constant communication with the child, " Kutz said.

Kutz said she wants the community to participate in helping locate some of the children.

NCMEC has some missing children posters on its website so that people may be able to recognize the children if they see them.

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