WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Democratic candidate for Kansas governor whose 3-year-old grandson's body was found encased in concrete has joined the push to reform the state agency in charge of investigating child welfare complaints and administering the state's foster care system.
Former Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer said his family filed multiple requests with the Kansas Department of Children and Families to check on his grandson, Evan Brewer, before the toddler's remains were found last month, The Kansas City Star reports.
Brewer suspended his campaign for a week and half before returning to the campaign trail. He said the messages of condolences his family had received from other families who had similar experiences convinced him to stay in the race.
"We thought about it and we said, OK, this is going to continue on unless somebody steps in and they're prepared to make a difference to stop it," he said.
The agency also has faced criticism in recent months over the number of runaway foster children and some children staying in the offices of contractors overnight because no foster homes were immediately available.
Another Democratic candidate for governor, House Minority Leader Jim Ward, of Wichita, called more than a year ago for Secretary Phyllis Gilmore to resign from the agency. Earlier this month, former state Rep. Mark Hutton, of Wichita, a GOP candidate, called for a "leadership change" at the department.
Brewer's son, Carlo Brewer, and the boy's mother, Miranda Miller, had been in a custody battle prior to the discovery of Evan's body in the home where Miller and her boyfriend, Stephen Bodine, had been living. Last week, Miller waived a preliminary hearing on charges of aggravated interference with parental custody, while Bodine pleaded not guilty to aggravated assault and criminal damage to property. The charges against Bodine stem from allegations that he threatened Carlo Brewer with a hatchet and slashed his vehicle's tires in August. No charges have been filed in the boy's death.
Brewer was in the Kansas City area for the American Royal barbeque competition when he got a phone call from Wichita's chief of police.
"In our minds, we figured, OK, the mom is just hiding the child. We had no idea until the chief of police actually called and said, 'You need to come home,' " Brewer said, explaining that at first he thought it was a mistake.
Brewer said his family's efforts to work with DCF to find his grandson were in vain. "They went there, but they never saw him and they said he was fine," he said. "Well, that's not good enough."
DCF spokeswoman Theresa Freed said in a statement Tuesday that a motion has been filed to seal the agency records in the case, and noted the motion was not filed by the department. She said the agency could not comment further, except to express sympathy for those affected by the death.
Information from: The Wichita (Kan.) Eagle, http://www.kansas.com