Runaway Juveniles in Foster Care Steal and Crash Vehicle
On Sunday February 26, 2023, three, 12-year-old females were reported as runaways from the 1600 block of Chess Ave. Two of the juveniles were in state foster care and the third juvenile was a resident of the reporting parent. The juveniles were entered into the nationwide system as runaways. On Monday February 27th, a mid-morning tip to the police from a citizen led to the three juveniles being located in a "red-tagged" (abandoned) house in the 2500 block of Chess Ave. Parsons Police Officers found all three juveniles and brought them to the police department. They were turned over to Labette County Juvenile Intake for processing and placement. The two juveniles in foster care were turned over to TFI Family Services, the state contract foster care provider, and the third was placed out of home.
At approximately 2:35 p.m., on the Monday February 27th, Parsons Police received a call from TFI Family Services that the two juveniles under their care had again run away, this time from their facility in the 100 block of South 18th St. Officers began to search the area for the juveniles and speak with citizens in the downtown area. One officer spoke with a witness who saw two juvenile females running away from the downtown area, almost 20 minutes before TFI Family Services notified the police. The police investigation revealed that the juveniles had allegedly been left unsupervised to go into another officer area within TFI prior to their flight. Officers continued the search for the juveniles.
At 5:32 p.m., Parsons Police were dispatched to NAPA Auto Parts, 400 S. 21st St., for a report of a stolen vehicle, a 2004 Nissan Frontier. It was quickly determined that the suspects in the theft of the vehicle were the two runaway juveniles. Parsons Police were then notified by Kansas Highway Patrol (KHP) that the stolen Nissan had been located after a collision on U.S. 400 Highway near mile marker 419, approximately 19 miles east of Parsons. The KHP trooper had information from witnesses that two female juveniles had fled from the vehicle and into an adjacent field and were unable to be located. The two juveniles are still being sought as runaways and also as juvenile offenders for felony theft of a motor vehicle.
Parsons Patrol Sergeant Waylon Kepley, who was one of the responding officers, said, "my main concern for this case is the safe return of the juveniles involved. I am also very concerned that they were able to escape from TFI custody and victimized an innocent bystander."
Parsons Police Deputy Chief Dennis Dodd said, "this incident is indicative of a broken juvenile system. In the State's effort to not criminalize juveniles for their decisions we have essentially established the game of catch and release before adulthood this avoids holding anyone responsible for the actions of juveniles, this includes parents and private industry charged with the care of these juveniles. The juvenile system in Kansas has long needed restructuring. This incident and the tragic death of a juvenile that wrecked on U.S. 400 should be an indication that services beyond outsourcing to contractors who may be underpaid and under trained. Foster centers or crisis care centers are in need in the state. Mental Health systems and model Juvenile facilities are needed in every part of the state, according to my discussions with other law enforcement leaders."
According to Parsons Police Chief Robert Spinks, "the forced privatization of government services whether for juveniles, foster kids, for profit prisons, or any helping service has generally been a costly failure in Kansas and other states. There is a reason for government to provide direct services and it all revolves around safety and service, not a quarterly corporate balance sheet. This is a plea to Topeka to adequately fund state helping services for all Kansans."
This continues to be an on-going investigation and citizens are encouraged to "See It, Hear It, Report It." If anyone has any further information on this incident or any other criminal activity, please contact the Parsons Police Department at 421-7060 or call the Tip Line at 421-7057 or email at email@example.com.
# # # # #