In the years before Adrian Jones was abused and tortured, and his body fed to pigs, his family had repeated contact with child welfare workers in Kansas and Missouri.
For the first time, the leader of the Kansas Department for Children and Families confirmed Friday that her agency had been in contact with the family years before Adrian’s death. Secretary Phyllis Gilmore said in a statement that her agency and the Missouri Department of Social Services worked together to provide “multiple services” to the Jones family.
She didn’t give specifics or offer details on any services either agency provided. Gilmore also didn’t say anything about hotline calls made in the case and when abuse or neglect may have been reported.
The case has garnered national headlines and prompted questions on why more wasn’t done to help the young boy. In the 1 1/2 years since Adrian died, The Star has made repeated requests for child-welfare records from Kansas and Missouri. No records have been released.
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“DCF had worked closely with the Missouri Department of Social Services in providing multiple services to the Jones family,” Gilmore said in her statement. “This family moved frequently between Kansas and Missouri, which greatly disrupted continuity of services and evaluation.”
The two agencies remained in regular contact and shared information, including where the family was living at certain times, Gilmore said.
The Kansas agency last had contact with Adrian and his family in February 2012, according to Gilmore. Authorities have said they believe that the 7-year-old likely starved to death in the fall of 2015, and his body was fed to pigs. Remains were located in a barn near the Kansas City, Kan., home the family rented.
“In fact, even during periods when the family was not residing in Kansas, DCF continued to reach out to the family regarding and inquiring about the welfare of Adrian,” Gilmore said. “DCF thoroughly investigated each reported incident of alleged abuse and/or neglect regarding Adrian as well as requests for information and assistance from the family while they were residing in the state.”
The Missouri Department of Social Services spokeswoman declined to comment Friday. Calls to the Kansas Department for Children and Families’ spokeswoman in Topeka requesting more information were not returned.
Adrian’s maternal grandmother, Judy Conway, said the statement from Gilmore only raises more questions.
“There are so many people who say they called DCF,” Conway told The Star Friday afternoon. “If they did, where are the records of those calls? Those people aren’t lying. ... I still want the records. I want to find all the answers myself.”
After news of Adrian’s death was released in late November 2015, The Star requested information from the Department for Children and Families. Kansas’ disclosure law says after a death or serious injury of a child, that information shall become public record. But a provision also spells out that the state must notify any “affected individual” and within seven days, those individuals can ask the court to keep the records sealed. A judge then rules on the motion
According to information obtained by The Star, prosecutors and Kansas City, Kan., police had requested the records not be released and a judge eventually ordered the case sealed.
The public still does not know how many hotline calls had been made and what services the two states provided the family.
At one point, the director of Missouri’s Department of Social Services decided to release Adrian’s records in his state. But after calling Wyandotte County, officials said they were asked to not release anything until after the case had gone through court.
When Adrian’s father, Michael Jones, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder March 31, the newspaper reached out again. A spokeswoman with the Department for Children and Families said the case was still sealed and a decision to open it was up to the judge. And a spokeswoman for the Missouri Department of Social Services said prosecutors still did not want the agency to release information.
Authorities were called to the home in November 2015 on a domestic disturbance, and Jones was later charged with aggravated battery and aggravated assault.
While at the home, officers learned that Adrian had not been seen in several months and might have been killed. Police haven’t said how they received that information.
Investigators soon found human remains, later identified as Adrian’s, in a barn on the property.
According to Gilmore’s statement, at that point the Department for Children and Families had not had contact with the family in 3 1/2 years. In February 2012, the last contact the agency had, it was reported to the Department for Children and Families that Adrian’s father and stepmother had separated.
“It is very difficult to assist families who are constantly transient, especially those who move across state lines and thereby deprive the state of any jurisdiction,” Gilmore said in the statement.
The Star reported in an article Sunday that the Kansas City, Kan., house where Adrian lived with his family when he died was equipped with more than 30 surveillance cameras. The abuse he suffered for months was captured in screen shots and short clips, which Conway watched in order to prepare for Jones’ trial. That trial won’t happen now because he pleaded guilty.
Conway wants to know if anyone tried to help her grandson and when. It’s believed that a relative of Jones also lived in the home at some point and witnessed how Adrian was treated.
That man has not been charged with a crime.
On Friday, a Kansas City, Kan., lawmaker introduced a bill in the Kansas Legislature that would create an added penalty in child abuse cases.
Rep. Louis Ruiz said his proposal would require family members or adults living in a household where there was severe abuse to intervene somehow and report the abuse.
At this point in the state’s legislative session, it’s unclear if the bill has enough support, or if there’s time, for it to pass.
More details in Adrian’s case could come when Jones is sentenced Monday. In Friday’s statement, Gilmore said that Adrian’s death is “truly a tragedy, and our hearts remain deeply saddened by his passing.”
“The death of any child through abuse and/or neglect is always a tragic loss,” Gilmore said, “but the circumstances surrounding Adrian’s last days are unconscionable as to how anyone could do this to an innocent little boy.”
The Wichita Eagle’s Jonathan Shorman contributed to this report.