A Topeka man who reunited with his missing daughter last month is urging Kansans to join him in a Statehouse rally to protest failings of the state-run foster care system.
Randy Puett will speak about his daughter's experience in the care of KVC Kansas, a child placement contractor. The Kansas Kids Matter Rally is planned for 1 p.m. Nov. 9 on the south steps of the Capitol.
"I am balls out on this," he said. "There is no reason they should allow these kids to be bullied."
The Rev. Sarah Oglesby-Dunegan, a social activist from Topeka, will join Puett as speakers at the event.
Puett's daughter spent five days in early October at a KVC office in Topeka, where she was shuttled to a different emergency home every night. During the days, she was confined to a holding room where she wasn't given a chance to shower or change into clean clothes. At one overnight location, she was bullied by other kids.
The 15-year-old jumped out of a second-story window to flee the foster care system. Nobody told Puett she ran away.
When the father found out she was missing 10 days later, he plastered posters across the city in hopes of tracking her down. His daughter called following a report by The Topeka Capital-Journal about her father's efforts.
Puett, a father of six, said the Kansas Department for Children and Families retains custody of the girl pending a court hearing. She is staying with Puett's neighbor.
An investigation by The Capital-Journal and KCUR revealed the perils of the Kansas foster care system, where the addition of thousands of children over the past eight years created severe placement instability, leading to a rise in runaways.
Puett said he is organizing the rally to expose how the system is failing the more than 7,000 children in state custody.
"We the people need to stand up for our neighbors and families of Kansas, so please join us to get the point across," Puett said.