The grandmother of 7-year-old Adrian Jones grew emotional Tuesday as she spoke to lawmakers about a bill expanding the list of people who would be required to report possible cases of child abuse and neglect.
Adrian’s maternal grandmother, Judy Conway, testified during a committee hearing on Adrian’s Act, named for the boy who was tortured and abused in his Kansas City, Kan., home.
Conway said after the hearing that adults, no matter what the cost is, need to protect children.
“I think the whole system failed him,” Conway said. “And I’ve been fighting for the last year and a half, since I learned of his death, to try to make some changes. And as his grandmother, I’m not going to stop.”
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She said the bill is a start, but doesn’t go far enough and called for more oversight and accountability for children who are home-schooled.
“I think it’s a step in the right direction, but I just don’t think it’s going to be enough to protect the children,” she said.
Authorities believe that Adrian starved to death following months of abuse and torture.
Adrian’s father, Michael Jones, was sentenced to life in prison this month after pleading guilty to first-degree felony murder in Adrian’s death. Heather Jones, Adrian’s stepmother, also received a life sentence last November.
A Star report earlier this month found that the home where Adrian was living with his family was filled with more than 30 surveillance cameras. Those cameras captured Adrian’s abuse in short clips and screen shots. The photos also showed one of the pigs that Adrian’s body was fed to sometime during the fall of 2015.
Following the story’s publication, Adrian’s Act was introduced by Rep. Louis Ruiz, a Kansas City, Kan, Democrat. The bill would require adults who live in the same home where a child is being abused to report it.
Authorities believe a relative of Adrian’s father lived in the home and did not report how Adrian was being treated. That person has not been charged with a crime.
The bill’s chances this session are unclear. Rep. John Barker, the head of the committee that held Tuesday’s hearing, said he still had more questions.
“I wish they had introduced it a lot earlier,” Barker said. “You know, I had a hearing on it late because it was just introduced last week.”
And House Majority Leader Don Hineman, a Dighton Republican, said he wasn’t sure if the bill would move forward this session.
“I’m sympathetic to that issue,” Hineman said. “But it’s late in the game to be considering a brand new subject matter.”
The Kansas Department for Children and Families submitted written testimony that was neutral on the legislation.
“This may strengthen the process to serve vulnerable children who are or have been victims of abuse, neglect or exploitation,” DCF said.
Mark Dupree, the Wyandotte County District attorney, said after Tuesday’s hearing that more oversight for home-schooled children should be paired with the legislation, but that he’s still in favor of the bill.
“I think a bill that has his name on it, it should be seen as assisting in preventing this type of crime from happening again,” Dupree said.