TOPEKA, Kan. — Kansas officials on Friday approved the state’s share of a settlement in a federal lawsuit over the death of a 4-year-old northeast Kansas boy that contributed to scrutiny of the state’s foster care agency.
The State Finance Council agreed to pay $100,000 to Naomi Boone, the mother of the late Mekhi Boone. TFI Family Services Inc., a foster care contractor, will pay another $312,000, said Gov. Sam Brownback, who is part of the council along with legislative leaders.
“Just everything about it makes you sad,” Brownback said at a news conference that followed the council’s meeting.
The boy’s father, Lee Davis, is serving nearly 20 years in prison for second-degree murder in the boy’s 2013 beating death. Naomi Boone has contended that TFI Family Services was aware Davis had a history of domestic violence when placing the child with him.
Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley said the state “had a responsibility to protect this boy, and they failed in that responsibility.” Hensley, a Topeka Democrat, added that the case is a “perfect example” of why he opposed turning over foster care services to private contractors two decades ago.
The Kansas Department of Children and Families said in a previous statement that the loss of any child is a tragedy and that an employee was fired in the wake of the death.
Heather Hatley, an attorney for TFI Family Services, said Friday that she couldn’t comment. TFI previously released a statement through another attorney that said Mekhi’s death “at the hands of his father saddened all of us.”
Lawmakers have ordered the state foster care system to undergo three audits. The first, released in July, found that the Kansas Department of Children and Families struggles to adequately oversee private foster care contractors, putting children in the system at risk. The second, released this month, found that the agency isn’t meeting many federal requirements, including ones aimed at providing stability for children.
Phyllis Gilmore, secretary of the Kansas Department for Children and Families, has told legislators that the department is working to resolve the issues highlighted in the first two audits. The final audit will be released next year.
Associated Press writer Heather Hollingsworth in Kansas City, Missouri, contributed to this report.
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