WELLINGTON, Kansas – As outlined in state documents KSN requested through the Kansas Open Records Act, KSN News learned that the Blansett family had a history at the Kansas Department for Children and Families, or DCF.
In fact, child welfare officials had investigated the family just days before the death of 10-year-old Caleb Blansett.
On Wednesday, KSN sat down with Amy Neuman, the assessment and prevention administrator for DCF, based in Wichita. Although Neuman could not speak to the Blansett family history directly, she answered our questions about how DCF responds to child abuse or neglect allegations and the agency’s protocol in general.
“We receive reports everyday. When our agency receives those reports, we read through them, we do history searches within the agency, we do some collateral contacts, meaning we just try to gain more information about what’s reported,” explained Neuman.
“Then, based on that, our agency determines if we have just cause to take further action. Meaning, ‘are we allowed to knock on that door?'” she continued.
Neuman spoke about a “difficult balance” between wanting to do what’s best for Kansas kids and not be intrusive to Kansas families.
According to DCF case history, the Blansett family was first brought to the state’s attention on June 21, 2012. A report was filed involving allegations of neglect. Records show that DCF responded by completing background checks on Lindsey Blansett and the children.
DCF tells KSN that background checks are one of the preliminary responses the agency takes after any initial complaint is filed alleging child abuse or neglect.
On June 22, 2012, a day after the initial report was received, the case was staff with a supervisor and closed.
Not even two years after the initial report was filed with DCF, the agency, again, became aware of concerns involving the Blansett family.
In 2014 alone, DCF received a number of reports.
On May 1, 2014, DCF received a report of neglect. At 9:30 a.m. the following day, May 2, a state worker reportedly went to the child’s school, but the child was not there.
Later that day, DCF went to the Blansett home. However, the child was in Wichita. Regarding which of the two Blansett children this report was filed for, who the child was with in Wichita, and why that child was in Wichita and not with his or her mother at the time, KSN has not yet learned. DCF did not release this information in our KORA request.
“Our social workers who are employed by DCF, they do make home visits, they do interviews at school, at agencies, so, we locate children and families wherever they are and complete those interviews,” said Neuman.
DCF reportedly conducted interviews with everyone involved, and it is likely, although not confirmed in the Blansett case, that Caleb and his younger sister could very well have undergone an interview at this time, regardless of which child the report was filed for.
“Whenever we have an assignment of child abuse or child neglect, we not only observe and interview that child victim, but we also see all of their siblings. We see everyone [who resides in] their home,” said Neuman.
At that point, Lindsey Blansett was offered some help from DCF state services, but according to the report, she said she did not want it.
“It’s our belief that most families could use a helping hand at some point as they raise children in difficult times,” said Neuman. “But, that is a family decision.”
Unless law intervenes, DCF cannot force any family to accept any sort of assistance.
KSN was told that these services can vary widely depending on a family’s individual circumstances and the challenges they could be facing at their time of need. Such services can include parenting classes, behavioral health assistance, or help finding housing and/or food resources.
Only three days after Lindsey Blansett declined services, on May 5, DCF lists an “unsubstantiated medical neglect” notation on the case file. KSN is still working to learn the details around this alleged neglect report.
“If a report was unsubstantiated, we did not find significant abuse or neglect that would lead to someone being placed on our central registry,” said Neuman.
In the agency’s final dealings with the Blansett family, less than a week before Caleb Blansett’s death, DCF assigned a “non-abuse/neglect” report. It did not involve any allegations against Caleb’s mother, Lindsey, but the records did not indicate who or what allegations it did involve.
Regardless, DCF found that the case warranted further investigation. The agency responded by assigning the intake.
“We have trained, professional social workers and assessing safety is their expertise, and we do that in a team environment at DCF,” said Neuman. “We do that in collaboration with law enforcement, and work to make the best team decision we can for children.”
Lastly, DCF responded Tuesday to the physical abuse/child death case for 10-year-old Caleb. We are told DCF is responding by reviewing this case.
Lindsey Blansett, 33, is charged with first degree murder and is being held on $500,000 bond. Her next court appearance is Thursday at 9 a.m.
If you suspect a child is being abused or neglected, call the Kansas Protection Report Center at 1(800)922-5330.
For instructions from the Kansas Department for Children and Families concerning how to report abuse or neglect, click here.
To learn more information about prevention and protection services, click here.