TONGANOXIE, Kan. — Investigators said Tuesday that three sisters who were missing since leaving their foster care home in August have been found safe, and that a man who was briefly taken into custody for questioning was released in a case that sparked debate about missing foster children in Kansas.

No details were provided about where the girls — ages 12, 14 and 15 — were found, but police said they were safe and in police custody.

The 48-year-old man was arrested in Kansas City, Missouri, after police said he was a person of interest in the case and the girls might be in danger if they were with him. He was released Tuesday after Tonganoxie police said they didn’t have enough evidence to charge him, Kansas City police spokesman Darin Snapp said.

Tonganoxie is nearly 30 miles (48.28 kilometers) west of Kansas City.

KCTV5 reports police said the man was trying to help the girls escape after they lied to him and said they were being abused at their foster home. Police said there is no evidence the man abused or hurt the girls.

Police have said they believed the girls ran away from their foster home Aug. 26.

The girls’ foster father told The Kansas City Star that social media posts led a woman to contact him Saturday. The woman raised suspicions about a man who had worked for her husband’s roofing business, saying she had seen the man with three girls who matched the missing girls’ description. The girls’ foster father said the man knew the girls because he was a neighbor of theirs at a previous residence.

Last week, the Kansas Department for Children and Families was asked about the missing girls during a child welfare task force meeting in Topeka. During the meeting, officials revealed that more than 70 youths were missing from the state’s foster care system. The department said the number wasn’t unusual and amounted to 1 percent of the more than 7,000 children in the system, in line with national statistics.

Sen. Laura Kelly, a Topeka Democrat, told fellow lawmakers at the meeting that the agency knew nothing when she first asked about the missing girls. She said she was “flabbergasted” and has called for a system similar to an Amber Alert that would prompt an immediate search when children in foster care go missing.

Theresa Freed, a department spokeswoman, said in a statement Tuesday that the agency could not comment on the missing sisters but the agency was grateful to those who work to locate missing foster children.

Author photo
The AP is one of the largest and most trusted sources of independent newsgathering. AP is neither privately owned nor government-funded; instead, as a not-for-profit news cooperative owned by its American newspaper and broadcast members, it can maintain its single-minded focus on newsgathering and its commitment to the highest standards of objective, accurate journalism.