Kansas agency investigated alleged sexual assault of foster child by Saint Francis employee

By: - January 29, 2021 9:11 am
Federal prosecutors moved to seize bank assets in a $10 million fraud investigation involving a former employee of Saint Francis Ministries, a Salina-based organization providing foster care and adoption services under a contract with the state of Kansas. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

Federal prosecutors moved to seize bank assets in a $10 million fraud investigation involving a former employee of Saint Francis Ministries, a Salina-based organization providing foster care and adoption services under a contract with the state of Kansas. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

TOPEKA — Kansas authorities have investigated a report that an unnamed Saint Francis Ministries employee picked up a boy from a foster parent and sexually assaulted the child in a motel room.

According to a complaint filed with the Kansas Department for Children and Families, after the man abused the boy, a woman arrived at the motel and took the boy for a bike ride before delivering the child to his mother.

Kansas Reflector learned of the allegation through an open records request for complaints involving foster children under the care of Saint Francis.

DCF and Saint Francis declined to provide details about the case, including the age of the boy, the location of the abuse, and whether the allegation was substantiated. They cited Kansas statute that prohibits the disclosure of foster care records.

Morgan Rothenberger, spokeswoman for Saint Francis, said DCF notified a local office of the complaint on Oct. 2. Saint Francis staff reviewed records and complied with all requests for information by DCF, she said.

“We fully support their investigation and their determination of next steps,” Rothenberger said.

Mike Deines, a spokesman for DCF, said the agency responds to complaints of sexual abuse by working with law enforcement to investigate the claims. That includes interviewing possible witnesses and a forensic interview with the alleged victim. DCF then makes a finding in the case.

Deines said he couldn’t divulge the outcome of the October complaint.

“The only thing I can share related to status is that it is completed,” Deines said.

Names are redacted in the complaint document, including the name of the individual who reported the alleged abuse. The complaint indicates the boy told a woman he had been molested by a Saint Francis driver.

“(Redacted) told her a man in a red truck with a beard with brown hair picked him up from his foster home to take him for a visit with his mother and the man took (redacted) to a hotel,” the complaint says. “The man stuck fingers in his butt and then ejaculated on top of (redacted) head. Then a woman came in to the motel room, took (redacted) and they went for a bike ride and then the woman took (redacted) to see his mom for a visit.”

Deines said agency policy requires DCF to notify the foster care provider of a complaint within five days. In emergency situations, intervention with a child victim is required within two hours.

Saint Francis conducts background checks as part of its hiring process, as required by DCF, Rothenberger said.

“When an employee is identified as an alleged perpetrator in an abuse or neglect report, the organization places the employee on administrative leave and no further client contact occurs until the finding decision from DCF,” Rothenberger said. “If the event is substantiated, the employee is terminated and is no longer eligible for employment. If it’s appropriate, law enforcement is contacted to begin an investigation.”

The investigation was initiated shortly before the Saint Francis board was made aware of financial misconduct by top management, who left the organization in November.

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Sherman Smith
Sherman Smith

Sherman Smith is the 2021 and 2022 Kansas Press Association’s journalist of the year. He has written award-winning news stories about the instability of the Kansas foster care system, misconduct by government officials, sexual abuse, technology, education, and the Legislature. He previously spent 16 years at the Topeka Capital-Journal. He is a lifelong Kansan.

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