Tony Bunn’s grandparents speak in the wake of DCF top to bottom review

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Questions continue to swirl around the Tony Bunn case, the two year old Wichita boy who died from alleged child abuse over the weekend.

Tony’s mother, Elizabeth Woolheater, and her boyfriend, Lucas Diel, have been arrested on suspicion of first degree murder.
     
The case was presented to the District Attorney’s office, Tuesday, and charges are expected Wednesday.

DCF announced in a press release, Tuesday, that it is making changes. Part of what it calls a “long list of improvements” including the addition of 20 positions to the Wichita region. 

This comes as the the grandparents of Tony Bunn talk openly about the death of their grandson for the first time .

“I want to tell you something so there won’t be any doubt. You are so wonderful to think about but so hard to be without.”

The words of this poem, read by Tony’s grandfather, aren’t enough to fill tony’s void.

“There is no reason for him to have left the early this early,” says Zachary Woolheater.

His grandparents say they haven’t seen him since October. It was then when, they say, they noticed bruising on Tony and took him to the Wesley Children’s Hospital. A report of abuse was made but after being presented to the District Attorneys office, it was ruled there was not enough evidence to support criminal charges.

“His face and personality lit up everyone he met always,” says Woolheater. “The amount of pain, anger and complete emptiness that we feel is overwhelming.”

DCF’S new secretary Gina Meier-Hummel was in Wichita on Tuesday. She announced the organization is doing a top to bottom review. In a DCF media release, the agency says “in the last several weeks two staff members have been dismissed” and ” work performance will continue to be reviewed across the state”

The Woolheathers say all they can do now is put their best foot forward to remember Tony and other children who have died of abuse.

“I am just one person. I can not solve the problem by myself. What I do see is that it is not just a local problem, this is a national problem. This is something that is worse than anything else and is kind of being swept under the rug by everyone else,” explains Woolheater.

Hummel also said in the media release that there were “concerning trends” in the Wichita region that needed to addressed.

Below is the full statement by Meier-Hummel.

“As I looked at each region, it became evident that there were concerning trends in the Wichita Region we needed to address,” said Secretary Meier-Hummel. “Quite simply, if we aren’t fulfilling our mission to serve the children and families of Kansas to the best of our abilities, then critical changes are needed. Therefore, effective today, DCF will be making a number of personnel changes. In addition, we are also implementing corrective action plans in child welfare programs.”

“Across the board, the vast majority of our staff are hardworking, dedicated individuals who change the lives of Kansas children and families every day, but we cannot shy away from issues that arise as we review our systems,” said Secretary Meier-Hummel. “I have absolute faith in Thomas Buell’s leadership. I know he will come alongside the Wichita Region staff to strengthen our programs.”

“In speaking with Wichita Region staff, they are grateful for the support, leadership and changes being made,” said Secretary Meier-Hummel. “It should be noted that prior to my arrival, there were vacancies going unfilled and they were lacking leadership and advocacy at the regional level, leaving staff unsupported. This week, we are in the process of interviewing approximately 20 individuals to fill vacancies. I am truly grateful for our staff in this region and their continued focus as we continue to strengthen our programs. As Secretary of this agency, I will continue to look to make crucial improvements to our system statewide that will ensure we are providing the best possible service to the people of Kansas.”

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