TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – It’s been one week since the tragic death of Zoey Felix. The 5-year-old girl was raped and murdered in Topeka last week, sparking public outcry.
“I don’t feel like the state did what they were supposed to do. I don’t feel like the police did what they were supposed to do, and I don’t think like her parents did what they should have did either,” Shaniqua Bradley, one of Zoey’s neighbors, told Kansas Capitol Bureau.
There are still many questions regarding Zoey’s case. One of the questions puzzling lawmakers and community members is why the state did not intervene. Bradley and other neighbors claimed that they had made several calls to Child Protective Services, but Zoey was never removed from the home.
HOW KANSAS’ CHILD REMOVAL PROCESS WORKS
Kansas Capitol Bureau reached out to the Kansas Department of Children and Families (KDCF) to get answers on the state’s child removal process.
A spokesman sent the following response:
The safety of the child is the primary concern. CPS cases start when a report is made to the Kansas Protection Report Center alleging abuse or neglect. The report is evaluated based on the information provided and may be assigned for further assessment. If the case is assigned, a DCF child protection investigator will attempt to contact the family and do an investigation and assessment.
After gathering information and convening family meetings, should it be determined that the child cannot remain safe in the home or with relatives and friends, DCF can ask the local county or district attorney to petition the court to remove the child from the home. The local prosecutor will review information provided by DCF and other witnesses (if available) and make a filing decision based on their evaluation of the facts and the law. If a case is filed based on DCF’s recommendation or other information available to the prosecutor, one of two things can happen: 1) a hearing can be set to determine custody of the child during the case, or 2) the Court/Judge can enter an order ex parte (without hearing) to make a change of custody of the child.Mike Deines, Kansas Department of Children and Families (KDCF) spokesman
WHAT QUALIFIES REMOVING A CHILD FROM HOME?
According to the spokesman, if a child is determined to be unsafe at home, then DCF can ask the local county or district attorney to petition the court to remove the child from the home. However, Shawnee County’s prosecutor said that never happened in the case of Zoey.
In a press conference last week, Shawnee County District Attorney Mike Kagay revealed new details regarding the status of Zoey’s mother, Holly Jo Felix.
Holly Jo Felix is currently on probation for a DUI and aggravated battery charge, where she was in a car with Zoey at the time. In a press conference last week, Kagay said the conditions of the sentence in that case is that she is not allowed to have contact with the victims. However, Kagay did not identify who the victims were.
Kansas Capitol Bureau also asked the KDCF spokesman what qualifies recommending a child be removed from the home. For example, does the parent have to have criminal charges, and does this differ with misdemeanors?
According to the spokesman, criminal charges are considered when evaluating the child’s safety in a home, but not a “determining factor.” He said, “the existence or non-existence of a criminal charge is not the determining factor for a child custody determination.”
“Safety is the primary concern when recommending removal from the home. DCF considers the current situation, the history of the family, as well as protective factors involved with the family and the child. Foster care services are for children and families in cases when a court has found the child to be in need of care and determined the parents cannot meet their child’s safety needs. Most children who require foster care have been abused or neglected, and they have major developmental, physical, and emotional needs that require various services and care.
Criminal charges would be one of many factors considered when evaluating the child’s safety but not a determining factor. The existence or non-existence of a criminal charge is not the determining factor for a child custody determination. DCF reviews the facts underlying the charge and other factors like family support and needed services.”Mike Deines, Kansas Department of Children and Families (KDCF) spokesman
Still, some are pointing fingers at the Department of Children and Families. There’s been horrific stories of children slipping through the cracks, like 7-year-old Adrian Jones from Kansas City. Jones’ body was fed to pigs in a livestock pen in 2015. Then, in 2018, 3-year-old Evan Brewer’s body was found encased in concrete in a Wichita home.
Kansas Governor Laura Kelly promised an overhaul of the system when she took office. However, Zoey’s death is, once again, prompting concerns.
“I don’t understand. She was failed. Zoey was failed by the system,” said Sharon Williams, one of Zoey’s neighbors
It’s unclear whether abuse or neglect has been determined as a cause for Zoey’s death. Kansas Capitol Bureau put in an open records request with the Kansas Department of Children and Families on Tuesday.
If this case is found to involve abuse or neglect, the agency has to turn over information within seven days of that being determined, according to state law.