KANSAS CITY, Mo. – More than a dozen children who ran away from state custody in Kansas have wound up incarcerated for crimes related to human trafficking, drawing the ire of victims’ advocates and some lawmakers who say the runaways were victims themselves.
After former Republican Gov. Sam Brownback took office in 2011 and reduced aid to needy families, the foster care population ballooned from 5,200 to nearly 7,500. KCUR and The Topeka Capital-Journal reported that child placement agencies struggled to recruit homes for the additional children. Social workers say that led to an increase in runaways, whom researchers say are vulnerable to sex traffickers.
The prosecuted runaways include Hope Zeferjohn, whose boyfriend began prostituting her after she ran away from foster care. She’s serving a six-year prison sentence for aggravated sex trafficking.