WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – In a federal lawsuit, a Sedgwick County woman claims a caseworker assigned to help her, instead, acted inappropriately.
The woman, who we will call Jane, had her kids taken away in 2014, according to the lawsuit. Jane petitioned the state to get her kids back. But the lawsuit claims the caseworker assigned to help her through the process took advantage of her.
In the lawsuit, Jane is suing Saint Francis Community Services, the agency that employed the caseworker. The suit is asking for $75,000 in damages.
Saint Francis is a subcontractor for the Kansas Department of Children & Families.
Allegations include, “… when he was alone with her, he touched her in appropriately.” Also, “… he would sit close to her and touch her arms and rubbed her back. Other St. Francis employees did not stop this behavior.”
KSN reached out to Saint Francis for comment on the allegations in the lawsuit.
A spokesperson for Saint Francis Community Services, Lee Ann Desper, who is the Director of Communications, said it would not be appropriate to comment on current litigation.
Today, Democrat House member Jim Ward of Wichita says he is concerned by the allegations, and believes this points to a larger issue for the Department of Children and Families in Kansas.
“This is just another example of an agency that is simply overwhelmed and failing to carry out its mission,” says Ward. “There has to be a clear signal from the governor’s office that changes are going to be made and we’re going to get back to the core function of the Department of Children and Families… which is protecting abused and neglected children. Absolutely without a doubt, the evidence is overwhelming of failure.”
Ward has, in the past, called for DCF Secretary Phyllis Gilmore to be fired for what he calls a lack of oversight.
Other lawmakers say they are concerned by the allegations in the federal lawsuit.
“This federal lawsuit shows that DCF clearly needs to find out about the employees of companies we outsource state services to,” says Republican Senate member, Michael O’Donnell. “Every agency has the potential to have a rogue employee… But St. Francis Services owes an explanation to their clients and the state of Kansas for employing an individual who would exploit a mother going through an extremely difficult time. These allegations, if proven true, are absolutely reprehensible and appalling.”
We also reached out to the Department of Children and Familes. Spokeswoman Theresa Freed responded.
“We are not listed as a party and have not been served with the complaint,” says Freed. “So it would not be appropriate for us to provide input.”
An audit of how DCF is performing has been ordered and is in the works. Some initial results of that audit are due out next week.
As for that lawsuit filed this week in Federal Court in Wichita, attorneys say there will be a legal response within 30 days.