KANSAS CITY, Kan. (WDAF) – A Kansas City, Kansas woman is calling for change at the Kansas Department for Children and Families. Many in Kansas City are grieving the loss of a 3-year-old girl found dead on Friday.
Saturday night a vigil was held for Olivia Jansen. A statewide Amber Alert was issued for the girl Friday. Hours later police found her body not far from 34th & Steele Road after getting a tip of a body off a trail.
Two suspects are in jail on suspicion of child abuse and first-degree murder. The girl’s father, Howard Jansen III, and his girlfriend, Jacqulyn Kirpatrick, are behind bars, formal charges were announced on Sunday evening.
The organizer of the protests, Lacey Langford, says more needs to be done to protect children in Wyandotte County.
“One baby is too much,” Langford said. “Two babies due to incompetent negligence is unacceptable on tax payer dollars.”
Langford is planning to gather a group at the KCK DCF office three evenings in the upcoming week.
“Why wasn’t somebody checking in on this family and making sure that they had the resources they needed to provide and protect their children?” Langford said.
She says Jansen’s life could have been spared if changes were made after 7-year-old Adrian Jones murder in 2015. Jones father and stepmother are both serving life sentences in the case.
It’s still unclear how involved DCF was with Jansen’s household, but Secretary Laura Howard says they are working with law enforcement and plans to provide more information on the case in the future.
Two of Olivia’s grandmothers told WDAF-TV on Friday they tried to intervene and get DCF more involved.
“I did try, you know, I called the cops, I’ve called DCF, you know there’s nothing I can do,” Elisabeth Jansen, Olivia’s step-grandmother said.
“I just didn’t know what he was doing over there with her. There’s no lights, there’s no gas, there’s no water, there’s nothing for that baby to be in that house,” Vickey Saindon, Olivia’s grandmother said. “He shouldn’t have had my grandchild there.”
Langford says it’s time to speak up and make sure another Wyandotte County child isn’t lost.
“Stand up and be a voice for those who can’t speak for themselves,” Langford said. “Especially during a pandemic. There is a lot of people right now who are suffering abuse behind closed doors. Speak up. Who do we speak up to? I really don’t know. Maybe each other. That’s the idea of the protest.”
Secretary Howard released this statement after news of the protests:
“My heart aches for Olivia, her family and the Kansas City community. The death of a child is a tragedy. I know there is strong community interest in this case, and I understand the desire for more information. The Kansas City community should know that DCF has a comprehensive process for review of critical incidents in order to quickly identify any agency or contractor policy or procedural issue that needs to be addressed. We are currently working alongside law enforcement and in accordance with state statute, my agency will provide further information specific to the case.
My focus for the last 18 months has been on creating a strong child welfare system that protects children and supports families. Olivia’s death reinforces my and my agency’s commitment to continue this vital work.”
If you are interested in attending the protests there is more information on their Facebook event page.