KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — The grandparents of a 3-year-old Kansas girl who was killed said they raised concerns about her safety with child protective services before her death in the latest tragedy involving the state agency responsible for overseeing young children.
Elisabeth and Howard Jansen II spoke out on Sunday after their 29-year-old son Howard Jansen III and his 33-year-old girlfriend Jacqulyn Kirkpatrick were charged in the death of Olivia Ann Jansen.
“She’s gone because of him, and her, and the system that wouldn’t help us,” the girl’s grandfather said.
Olivia’s body was found Friday nearly nine blocks from her Kansas City home, from which her father had reported her missing. Authorities haven’t released how she died.
Elisabeth Jansen said she expressed fears to the Kansas Department for Children and Families on June 21 that drugs were in the home where Olivia lived.
“We knew it was bad, but we had no idea what we’re finding out now,” Howard Jansen II said.
Their son and Kirkpatrick kept Olivia from them, and they hadn’t seen the girl since March, the grandparents said, adding that Olivia’s biological mother was going to let them take care of the girl once she was released from prison.
Laura Howard, secretary of the Department for Children and Families, said her agency reviews critical incidents to determine if there are any policies or procedures that need to be addressed.
The grandparents were among the dozens of people gathered outside the Wyandotte County courthouse when District Attorney Mark Dupree announced that their son and his girlfriend had been charged with felony murder, aggravated endangering a child and criminal desecration in Olivia’s death.
Dupree said there was nothing he could say to ease their pain, but vowed to seek justice for “baby Olivia.”
Olivia’s grandparents said the little girl was once sassy but, at some point, she lost her spark.
“She knew she was going to die,” Elisabeth Jansen said.
Child welfare officials also have acknowledged that they received repeated reports about a 2-year-old Wichita boy before he was found dead in a motel of a methadone overdose last May. A 3-year-old Wichita boy’s body was found encased in concrete in 2017 after relatives repeatedly reported abuse. In the Kansas City area, a 7-year-old boy was tortured, starved, killed and fed to pigs in 2015 despite extensive involvement with welfare officials.
Earlier this month, the state settled a class-action lawsuit filed by child care advocates who accused the state of not providing foster children with adequate mental health care and moving them too frequently between homes.