Child sex abuse reports sent by abortion providers misleading, DCF secretary says
Department for Children and Families secretary Laura Howard offered more information about child sexual abuse allegation data collected by the department. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)
Department for Children and Families secretary Laura Howard said “we dropped the ball” in presenting child sexual abuse allegations reported by Kansas abortion providers at a Monday committee meeting.
The data, which run from 2011 to 2022, weren’t available to the public until the Topeka Capital-Journal filed public record requests earlier this year, despite a long-standing Kansas statute requiring the data to be published annually. The reports hadn’t been filed by the administrations of Govs. Laura Kelly, Jeff Colyer and Sam Brownback in the previous six years.
Howard blamed disorganization within the last three administrations for the delay in making the information available but said she was committed to doing better. Howard said she was unaware of the legal requirement to publish the reports until the public record requests were filed.
“The first time I became aware of this honestly was when we received a KORA request a few months ago,” Howard said at the meeting. “So I will take full ownership for the fact that under my tenure, there was no report published for the last three and a half years. In fact, there was no report published except for possibly one report in 2016.”
Child welfare concerns loom large in Kansas as the November gubernatorial election approaches, with Kelly and her challenger, Attorney General Derek Schmidt, both running on platforms of improving child welfare and the foster care system. Schmidt has criticized Kelly for failing to release these sexual abuse reports.
Reports document allegations of sexual abuse filed by abortion providers, but Howard said this data is misleading, as not all reports were instances of sexual abuse. Some dealt with youth requesting birth control, and others were filed because the person was under the age of consent.
“Those are raw numbers of reports that we received from those providers,” Howard said. “They’re not the actual cases of sexual abuse.”
Out of the 126 reports filed between 2017 to 2022, only four were marked for further investigation, Howard said. About 39% of cases were patients under the age of 16 requesting birth control, and 31% of cases were patients under the age of 16 who were sexually active. Only 5% of cases involved sexual assault or rape, according to Howard’s report, and in those cases, law enforcement and child advocacy groups were contacted.
Lawmakers asked Howard for more clarity on the investigation process, and how youth safety was ascertained. Sen. Molly Baumgardner, R-Louisburg, said she wanted more information on the underage youths who were sexually active, questioning Howard about how these cases were handled.
“Are we to surmise that it is possible that some of them went into a clinic of someone that provides abortions and actually made the request for birth control, and that that wasn’t further investigated?” Baumgardner asked.
The senator said DCF should be more thorough in these cases, saying the department should make sure underage children were not being sexually coerced or trafficked and were being adequately cared for.
“A sexually active 12-year-old, 13-year-old, 14-year-old, certainly does run the risk of other physical problems as well as perhaps mental health issues,” Baumgardner said.
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