KSN Investigates: DCF response time policy

KSN Investigates

WICHITA, Kansas – A KSN investigation into case response time at the Kansas Department for Children and Families, DCF, has revealed concerning information about the events that led up to the December 2014 death of 10-year-old Wellington boy, Caleb Blansett.

Our investigation revealed that the Department for Children and Families, DCF, missed an opportunity to discover serious trouble inside the Blansett home, even though they were alerted to problems just five days before Caleb’s mother, Lindsey Nicole Blansett, 33, admitted to a 911 dispatcher that she fatally stabbed her son on December 14. In 911 records released to KSN, she told dispatchers she thought intruders were in the home and wanted to save him from those intruders. Now charged with first degree murder, the courts are trying to determine if Lindsey Blansett is mentally competent to stand trial.

DOWNLOAD | Kansas DCF Policy and Procedure Manual (PDF)

KSN’s Brittany Glas spent the past five months, since Caleb’s murder, looking into his case. KSN traveled more than 300 miles to sit down with Caleb’s father, Clint Blansett, to discuss the department’s policies and DCF’s required response times in Caleb’s case.

A Mourning Father Calls DCF Into Question: Clint Blansett

Clint Blansett talks with KSN’s Brittany Glas

Nearly five months after Caleb Blansett died, his father, Clint Blansett, is speaking out against the Department for Children and Families, saying the state ultimately, failed, his family.

“I wake up knowing that I was failed, and so was Caleb, and Cadence, and [Lindsey] Nicole, as well,” said Blansett.

He says the state agency should have known there was trouble in the home in those days leading up to Caleb’s death, since records confirm, the family was well known to DCF.

“How come nobody raised an eyebrow to save my son?” asked Blansett. “Steps should have been taken and steps were not taken.”

Remembering Caleb

“That was him all the time, he always had a smile,” said Blansett, as he looks through family photos. “You know he always had a smile.”‘

Caleb Blansett

Caleb was the older of two children born to Clint and Nicole Blansett. A little sister, Cadence,  was a year younger. Married for 13 years, the couple divorced in 2012 and Nicole got custody of their two children.

Clint Blansett is a proud father, calling his son a good boy, loving to his parents and sister.

Blansett says both of his children had been the subject of several DCF complaints concerning their safety, well before his son was killed.

“Where were you before and how come nobody raised an eyebrow to save my son,” asks Blansett.

For several months KSN News poured through the more than 600-page policy manual for DCF workers to learn about policy and procedures.

DCF, citing a wide-ranging privacy policy, released exactly one page of records about the family, despite an extensive history the agency admits goes back to 2012.

KSN has repeatedly asked for an interview with DCF regarding the Blansett case, which the agency has denied.

“Let my son’s death mean something. Let his death help somebody else,” expressed Blansett. “If my son’ death can save one other child, then, [Caleb’s death] it won’t be a wash.”

DCF Response Time Policy: A Concerning Timeline of Events

According to DCF case history, the Blansett family was first entered into the state system on June 21, 2012. A report was filed alleging possible neglect. By law, DCF won’t release who made the report. Records released by DCF indicate that the state responded by completing background checks on Lindsey Nicole Blansett and the Blansett children.

Click to view DCF Case Review for Lindsey Blansett

On June 22, 2012, a day after the initial report was received, the case was staff with a supervisor and closed.

Not even two years after the initial report was filed with DCF, the agency, again, became aware of concerns involving the Blansett family.

On May 1, 2014, DCF received another report of neglect. At 9:30 a.m. the following day, May 2, a state worker reportedly went to the child’s school, but the child was not there. Later that day, DCF reportedly went to the Blansett home and later found the child was in Wichita.

KSN was told that Lindsey Nicole Blansett was offered assistance from DCF state services, but according to the report, she said she did not want help.

EXTRA | Timeline of communication between KSN and the DCF

On December 9, 2014, less than a week before Caleb Blansett’s death, DCF received another report.  This time, Nicole Blansett contacted Wellington Police accusing Clint Blansett of sexually abusing their children.  After talking to the children, the Wellington PD didn’t pursue charges, but state law requires police to report such claims to DCF, which they did the same day.

According to DCF’s timeline the department appointed a social worker to the case on December 9.

And it’s at this point that Clint Balnsett believes his son’s life could have been saved, that had DCF investigated fully in the days immediately after his ex-wife made her complaint, they would have realized his children were in danger — not from him — but from her.

“If someone had just walked into the house, there would have been enough red flags.  She had wrote bogus scripture all over the walls and all over the furniture, and all over the pictures.  It was everywhere, and it was in permanent marker,” said Blansett.

Did DCF respond as they should have, and in a timely manner?

We poured through 600 pages of DCF policy and found that with any claim the agency must make an initial assessment within the next half working day — in this case by December 10.

What happens on December 9 — the decision on how to classify the claim — becomes very important to Caleb Blansett. If this claim is filed as an abuse claim, DCF has three days to determine a course of action. But this claim, that a father was sexually abusing his children, was instead classified as a non-abuse claim, meaning DCF has 20 working days to determine a course of action.

EXPLANATION | Read DCF email explaining response times

And in all of the DCF records we were able to obtain, there is no report of contact between anyone from DCF and the Blansett family between December 9-14, when Caleb was killed. Despite repeated requests, DCF refuses to answer directly why the non-abuse classification was made. DCF also refuses to confirm or deny its contact with Clint Blansett before his son was murdered.

What we do know is that DCF had contact with the Blansett family on Deccember 15, the day after Caleb was killed, when they gave Clint Blansett custody of his daughter — despite the fact that a non-abuse claim had been filed against him. Had DCF determined the report unfounded? The timeline suggests not.

While DCF refuses to acknowledge the exact date of contact, according to Clint Blansett, he was contated by a DCF case worker on January 15 regarding the claim that his ex-wife made against him on December 9. DCF’s own policies say that contact should have happened by January 12, 20 working days. Instead it was 23 working days after the report was filed, 32 days after Caleb was killed and 31 days after he was given custody of his daughter.

“I wake up knowing that I was failed, you know, and so was Caleb and Cadence and Nicole, as well,” said Blansett.

Timeline of Events

DCF Responds

Was the Blansett family failed by DCF and its policies? Or did DCF do everything they could and this was all just a tragic sequence of events that couldn’t be prevented? It may be DCF policy that prevents us from ever knowing the answer. As you’ve heard us report many times, DCF rarely comments about specific cases, citing the need to protect the privacy of the children and families it serves.

When Blansett was given custody of his daughter, he says he was required to sign what his attorney called a gag order, to not talk about the case publicly, a point he told us about when he decided to sit down and talk with KSN.

Titled “Public Knowledge Case,” policy 0313 in the DCF manual reads: “KSA 38-2212 allows the agency to provide disclosure of procedural details related to the handling of a case in the event the investigation of a case or the filing of a CINC [child in need of care] petition becomes public knowledge.

The person in receipt of the request shall ensure the Open Records Coordinator in the Secretary’s Office, the Director of PPS, and the DCF regional Attorney and Program Administrator are notified of the request.  The Director of PPS, or Designee and the DCF Regional Attorney and Program Administrator, or Designee(s) shall coordinate review of the case file and how to proceed.”

KSN reached out to DCF multiple times, in person and via phone and email, to get their side of the story concerning the Blansett investigation.

KSN News filed numerous requests with the department for additional documentation, more detail, and in seeking clarification to better understand the agency’s policies and procedures, but were denied an on-camera, sit-down interview with a DCF representative.

KSN pointed to a policy in the procedure manual that appears to allow for some release of data in a case, but again we were denied.

DCF did say we could send them written questions, they would record the answers and send those back to us. We couldn’t agree to not be in the room to record the answers or ask follow questions. Instead, in response to our multiple requests, the Department for Children and Families released this statement, in an email on Tuesday, April 21, 2015:

“This was an unthinkable tragedy. Our hearts go out to those affected by this child’s death. We will not contribute to a story that sensationalizes a family’s pain by participating in an on-camera interview for which we were refused questions/accusations that would allow us to provide accurate responses. We have spent months providing information to KSN with regard to our policies and procedures. We also sat down with a KSN reporter on Friday, April 17, for more than an hour, to have an open discussion with a subject-matter expert as we provided even further information. Despite the many hours spent addressing KSN’s questions, the news outlet continues to insist that the Kansas Department for Children and Families has been uncooperative. We hope members of the public who have questions about agency efforts to protect children will contact DCF directly to receive accurate and complete information. It is our mission to protect children, promote healthy families and encourage personal responsibility.”

— Theresa Freed
Director of Communications
Kansas Department for Children and Families

Representatives from DCF tell KSN News that any viewers with general questions or concerns about this case, or policy, can call 1 (888) 369-4777. Kansas residents can also report abuse/neglect by calling 1 (800) 922-5330.

In the days immediately following Caleb’s murder, Phyllis Gilmore, the department’s Secretary, released the statement below:

“As with any child death, we are deeply saddened by this news. We are carefully reviewing this incident and our history with this family… Our hearts go out to anyone affected by this unthinkable tragedy.”

– Phyllis Gilmore
Secretary of DCF, as released in a statement.

A Mother’s Mental Competency Comes Into Question: Lindsey Nicole Blansett

Caleb’s mother, Lindsey Nicole Blansett, admitted to 911 dispatchers that she stabbed her son, Caleb, to death. While her ex-husband, Clint Blansett, is calling DCF into question, Lindsey Nicole is facing questions to determine her mental competency to stand trial in the first degree murder of her son.

Blansett last appeared in Sumner Co. Court on Thursday, April 23. She appeared, in person, following a mental evaluation conducted at Larned State Hospital.

The results of that mental evaluation, which will likely determine her competency to stand trial in the murder of her son, were supposed to be presented in court on May 14. However, shortly before this story aired, KSN learned the medical professional who conducted Blansett’s evaluation at Larned could not make this court date. Blansett’s mental evaluation hearing was then moved up to May 7. This court hearing, however, was closed to both the public and the media.

Sumner Co. Attorney Kerwin L. Spencer tells KSN News, the reason for the closed hearing is fear of possibly tainting a potential jury pool in the prosecution of this case.

In the weeks before the story made air on Tuesday, May 12, KSN News went inside the former Blansett home. That is, the home Nicole Blansett rented in Wellington, where both she and her children resided, and ultimately, where Caleb died.

Clint Blansett told KSN News that, had DCF simply gone to the house after the December 9 report been filed, they would have seen that the Blansett kids were in danger, because he says his ex-wife had written scriptures and phrases all over the walls.

“If someone had just walked into the house, there would have been enough red flags. She [Nicole] had wrote bogus scripture all over the walls and all over the furniture, and all over the pictures,” said Clint Blansett. “It was everywhere, and it was in permanent marker.”

KSN News wanted to see for ourselves the “writing on the wall” Clint Blansett talked about in our interview. There were several places on the walls that had been painted over, but, you could still see handwriting behind the paint.

It may be difficult to see from the original pictures themselves, so, we have highlighted the text in order for our viewers to get a clear picture.

If you suspect a child is being abused or neglected, call the Kansas Protection Report Center at 1 (800) 922-5330.

For instructions from the Kansas Department for Children and Families concerning how to report abuse or neglect, visit their “Report Abuse or Neglect” page.

To learn more information about prevention and protection services, visit their “Child Protective Services” page.


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