18-year-old charged with rape at Kansas child welfare office

OLATHE — An 18-year-old has been charged with sexually assaulting a 13-year-old at a suburban Kansas City child welfare contractor’s office where children have been kept overnight because of a shortage of beds.

Michael Anthony Hamer was charged last week with rape and aggravated indecent liberties with a child, The Kansas City Star reported. Bond is set at $500,000. His attorney didn’t immediately respond to a message from The Associated Press.

Authorities have dealt with many troublesome issues at the KVC Behavioral Healthcare office in Olathe, where the rape was reported in May, according to Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe. He said his office and law enforcement are “extremely frustrated.”

KVC spokeswoman Jenny Kutz said the agency takes “this situation very seriously.”

The Kansas Department for Children and Families, which oversees KVC’s foster care contract with the state, has been under scrutiny for the past two years after high-profile deaths of children. Lawmakers have been raising safety concerns since learning last fall that foster care contractors had resorted to having youths sleep in offices overnight because of a shortage of foster homes and residential beds

DCF announced in mid-May that it was increasing oversight of KVC, but the agency made no mention of the sexual assault.

In early June, The Kansas City Star asked DCF about the children who had been sleeping in offices. DCF said at the time that there were eight critical incidents that “involve a child getting hurt while at KVC offices” from Dec. 1 to early June. DCF said then that some instances involved children injured while playing, while others involved “youth who have escalating emotional and behavior challenges.” The Star reported that it learned about the sexual assault only after requesting police calls for service to the Olathe office.

Sen. Laura Kelly, a member of Kansas’ child welfare task force and the Democratic nominee for governor, said the situation shows that transparency remains an issue.

“It sounds just like a nightmare,” Kelly said. “As we peel one layer of the onion off, we just find more things.”

DCF spokeswoman Taylor Forrest said the May 5 incident was “the only sexual assault to occur with youth in a KVC office.” She said the staff member who was supervising the two teens and another youth is no longer employed with the contractor. Forrest did not say whether the employee was fired but did explain in an email that KVC was cited for regulatory violations.

Forrest said stopping the practice of children sleeping in offices is a “top priority” and that it has become rare since DCF increased oversight of KVC and added beds.