6-year-old girl hit by car on KC highway strayed from foster home at least twice

A 6-year-old girl had run from a state foster home for at least the second time shortly before Christmas when she was hit by a car at night on U.S. 40 and suffered life-threatening injuries, Kansas City police said.

Just 10 days before the accident off Phelps Road, patrons at a biker bar on the same corner called police to come get the girl, whom they had found wandering in the dark along the four-lane highway.

Officers returned the child to her foster home that first night, Dec. 11, and police alerted “a state-appointed social service worker,” Kansas City Police spokesman Capt. Lionel Colón said Thursday.

But at about 7:30 p.m. Dec. 21, the child ran across the highway against a red light toward the bar — the Tool Shed Lounge — and was hit by a car. She remained in critical condition, police said.

Questions about the foster home and the state’s response after the child was first discovered walking by the highway alone remain unanswered.

By state and federal law, the Missouri Department of Social Services cannot release any records regarding potential abuse or neglect of a specific child until the department director determines that releasing information will not harm the child or siblings, a department spokeswoman said.

“The director can consider whether it is appropriate to release information …. after the investigation is concluded and the department has had the opportunity to consider the impact of the release of information on other children within the immediate family,” the spokeswoman said in an email to The Star.

On Dec. 11, patrons at the bar treated the girl with soda and chips while they waited for police to come. Many of the same regulars were there 10 nights later when she was hit by the car outside their bar.

The bar patrons — many of them part of a charity organization, Bikers Advocates — collected toys for the girl. Several tried to surprise her by visiting the hospital with their bags of gifts before Christmas. But hospital privacy regulations allowed them only to leave one bag of toys at the security desk, said Bikers Advocates member Thomas “Hobbles” Craig.

They don’t know her name, but they know now she was living nearby and they want to help her.

“I wish I had a foster parent license,” said Rachel Fry, who was inside the bar the Sunday after the child was hit. “Then I could feed her and clothe her and keep her from harm.”

Susan McCluer, a patron, said she spent part of her childhood growing up in foster care in Wichita.

“A girl at that age just wants a home,” McCluer said. “You’re just happy to have a home.”

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Joe Robertson specializes in reporting on criminal and social justice. He works to tell the stories behind the stories, while covering breaking news of all kinds.