Kansas lawmaker introduces Adrian's Act after murder of KCK boy

Act would strengthen child abuse laws

TOPEKA, Kan. - A Kansas state lawmaker has introduced a new piece of legislation that aims to strengthen child abuse laws.

On Friday, State Rep. Louis Ruiz introduced Adrian's Act.

It's in response to a 41 Action News investigation that shed light on who's required to report child abuse.

RELATED | 41 Action News investigation leads to proposed change in Kansas child abuse laws

Adrian Jones, 7, died at his Kansas City, Kansas home after being tortured for months at the hands of his stepmother and father.

Adrian's parents documented his abuse.

After the arrests of Adrian's father and stepmother, Michael and Heather Jones, the 41 Action News Investigators uncovered there was another adult living in the home during the course of Adrian's abuse.

Surveillance footage from inside the home shows Adrian hiding from the other adult who lived there. That person has been identified as the little boy's great uncle.

Kansas City, Kansas Police said they didn't have enough evidence to arrest the relative.

Ruiz is from Wyandotte County where Adrian was killed.

"The atrocities of that type of thing happening in my home county really hits my heart," Ruiz said.

In Kansas, it's not a crime to live in a home where a child is being tortured and not report it.

But if passed, Adrian's Act would change that. It would require adults living in a home where a child is being abused to report it to authorities. 

"Make them culpable and maybe force their hand to report that type of abuse so we don't reach the situation we're in with poor little Adrian Jones," Ruiz said.

The 41 Action News Investigators did some research and found 11 other states already have similar laws in place, where all citizens are required to report abuse.

On Thursday, the investigators spent the day talking with lawmakers about Adrian's tragic death. Many of them said they'd like to see more transparency within Kansas Department for Children and Families.

Kansas Department for Children and Families (DCF) Secretary Phyllis Gilmore issued the following statement regarding allegations made against the agency following the horrific death of Adrian Jones. 

“The death of Adrian Jones at the hands of his own father and stepmother is truly a tragedy, and our hearts remain deeply saddened by his passing. DCF had worked closely with the Missouri Department of Social Services in providing multiple services to the Jones family. This family moved frequently between Kansas and Missouri, which greatly disrupted continuity of services and evaluation. Nevertheless, DCF and Missouri officials remained in regular contact with each other regarding Adrian and shared information and location, when known. In fact, even during periods when the family was not residing in Kansas, DCF continued to reach out to the family regarding and inquiring about the welfare of Adrian. DCF thoroughly investigated each reported incident of alleged abuse and/or neglect regarding Adrian as well as requests for information and assistance from the family while they were residing in the state. DCF’s last contact with the family was while they were living in Kansas in February 2012, and it was reported at that time that the father and the stepmother had separated. It is very difficult to assist families who are constantly transient, especially those who move across state lines and thereby deprive the State of any jurisdiction. The agency is further discouraged when family members fail to assist the agency with protecting their relatives. The death of any child through abuse and/or neglect is always a tragic loss, but the circumstances surrounding Adrian’s last days are unconscionable as to how anyone could do this to an innocent little boy. DCF has not been able to publicly release Adrian Jones’ records, as they remain under seal pursuant to court order. It is our understanding that a motion has been filed to lift the seal. If and when that occurs, and we receive any Kansas Open Records Act Requests (KORAs), along with a copy of the order unsealing the records, DCF will release its records in accordance with the provisions of K.S.A. § 38-2212(f).” 

It's been nearly two years since Adrian's death and his grandmother, Judy Conway, still does not have his records.

Conway said this bill is a step in the right direction when it comes to justice for Adrian.

"For anyone who was part of Adrian's abuse, my little man deserves justice," Conway said. "That means, whoever played a part in his abuse needs to be held accountable. [Adrian's uncle] lived in the home where my grandson was abused for 9 months and he did absolutely nothing to report it."

Ruiz said the community needs to get behind the bill if they want it to pass.

Here are the links to contact Kansas lawmakers:

Kansas House of Representatives

Kansas Senate

 

Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story said the bill would require all adults to report suspicions of child abuse. We've corrected the story to say the bill only requires adults living in a home where child abuse is taking place to report it. 

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