Remove Megan's name from the Kansas Child Abuse and Neglect Central Registry
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Megan is a 32-year-old Olathe, Kansas resident who has been developmentally disabled since infancy. Megan was employed through a work program sponsored by the State of Kansas along with the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services (SRS) at the Little Learners Day Care, 14155 S. Murlen, Olathe, KS 66062 as a part-time teacher’s assistant in May 2012.
You may be aware of an incident that occurred at Little Learners Day Care on May 17, 2012 where five children were found outside of the daycare playground. Our first notification of this investigation was received through the mail via a letter post-marked June 11, 2012 and received at Megan's residence in Olathe. We lived in Chanute, Kansas and did not become aware of this letter until June 23, 2012. On June 25, 2012, I initiated a call to the author of the letter, Mandy Bertholdi with SRS. During my conversation with Ms. Bertholdi, she indicated she was unaware of Megan's condition or the affiliation with the SRS work program and was operating under the assumption that Megan was a teacher at the preschool. She did indicate that she tried to call Megan several times but was unable to reach her. She informed me the investigation had been closed, but she would call me back later that day based on the new facts I provided in our discussion. She did not return the call as promised. On June 26, 2012, I placed a follow-up call to Ms. Bertholdi, which she returned on June 27, 2012. Ms. Bertholdi stated she spoke with her supervisor, and the allegations of child abuse noted in the June 11, 2012 letter had been substantiated and the investigation closed, resulting in Megan's name being placed on the Kansas Child Abuse Central Registry.
While the events of May 17, 2012 were unfortunate and we are grateful the children were not physically harmed in any way, we believe the findings noted against Megan were not justified based on her level of responsibility at the daycare. We were also of the opinion the findings were based on information provided by others without any communication to her or anyone involved in her support system. She was basically put on a list that changed her life with the only information known about her being her employer, name and address.
Thus, we appealed the substantiation findings, and retained legal counsel to represent Megan through the appeals process.
Many questions were unanswered at that time and remained unanswered today:
Why are the allegations of lack of supervision directed at Megan when she was a clearly employed as a part time teacher's assistant without any supervisory responsibilities?
Why wasn't her job coach through SRS contacted? Why wasn't her case manager contacted? Why were her parents not contacted?
Megan’s attorney communicated and recommended we enter in to a settlement agreement based on his conversations with Paula Hurt, SRS Attorney and Stephen Good, Presiding Officer. Megan’s attorney noted that based on those conversations, our chances for a successful appeal were not good as a decision had already been predetermined and no compromise was likely to be considered, and our best course of action was to obtain the settlement agreement and pursue expungement after three years. And while there was no formal guarantee an expungement request would be granted, the tone of the conversation was one that led our attorney to feel an expungement request would most likely be granted based on the circumstances of the case. Our attorney went on to say he was told that “if Megan agreed to go on the registry which as you know is a private registry that she could enter in to a consent order where she does not admit any fault and not have to accept responsibility and that after 3 years of not working in daycare they wouldn’t go bananas over a request to have her name expunged off the registry based on her disability.”
The settlement agreement was entered in to on November 26, 2012, and while the agreement stipulates to Megan’s name being placed on the Kansas Child Abuse and Neglect Registry, it also clearly states that the agreement is not to be construed as an admission of any wrong doing by Megan who expressly denied the allegations upon which the CDF substantiated their findings.
Prior to Megan’s employment at Little Learners Day Care, she worked and thrived for three years at Goddard School in Olathe, Kansas, and during her employment at Little Learners also volunteered at the day dare facility located in MidAmerica Nazarene University in Olathe, KS. It is clear and proven to us that Megan can thrive and be productive in a daycare environment under the right conditions and under the proper supervision.
While this environment may have existed at the Little Learners Day Care when she was hired, teachers were ultimately responsible for the direct supervision of the children. It is unknown as to whether something changed under the transition to the new ownership, but Megan should not be held responsible because she was not in a position, nor was she hired to be in a position of direct supervision.
During the telephone conference on October 19, 2016, the DCF representative from the KC Region made a recommendation to the panel that Megan’s name not be removed as nothing had changed. We would respectfully disagree with that opinion. First, this person has no knowledge of Megan’s condition, her strengths as well as her weaknesses and we find it unconscionable someone could reasonably make such a recommendation based on such limited knowledge. The representative very unemotionally read sections 1, 2, & 3 of the agreement. This is a great example of not knowing Megan. The settlement agreement reads she cannot become a foster parent or adopt a child. We certainly know Megan can’t do these things because of her special needs, just like her part-time position at Little Learners did not allow her to be qualified as a teacher. Second, we would maintain that much has changed. Megan has not been able to work and/or volunteer in a daycare facility where she as clearly thrived, and given the opportunity to do so again, we and her support system will not put her in an environment where the appropriate levels of supervision are not in place.
We also noted during the telephone conference the direct line of questioning directed at Megan with an expectation of definitive response, which she was obviously unable to do. First, she doesn’t feel she did anything wrong as do we. Secondly, this expectation is also an indication of the lack of understanding as to Megan’s ability to answer as a person with a disability and the possible accommodations that should have considered prior to the call.
Individuals with special needs like Megan struggle through family and faith or community-based support systems to find a place where they can be productive in todays’ society. They are no different in that regard than any of us, however far too often they are excluded from opportunities for employment due to a focus on what they can’t do instead of finding ways to capitalize on the wonderful contributions they can make in our world.
Thousands of Kansans with disabilities live in communities across the state. They lead lives in which they are cherished members of their family and valued employees in the workplace. Just like all of us, they want to live fulfilling lives. You have an opportunity here to make a positive statement here reaffirming our responsibility to this largely forgotten portion of our communities.
We as her parents will continue to advocate for Megan’s rights as an individual.
Based on the above, we therefore reassert our opinion that Megan’s name be removed from the Kansas Child Abuse and Neglect Registry per our expungement request dated August 29, 2016.
Mark and Sharon Miller
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