KANSAS CITY — A Kansas City woman was ordered to undergo a psychological exam years before authorities rescued her malnourished daughter from a locked closet in the woman's home, but a family court commissioner canceled the exam without explanation, according to court documents.
A state child welfare investigator found the girl last June locked in the closet amid her own urine and feces. The girl, who was 10 at the time, weighed just 32 pounds, and she told authorities she hadn't been allowed to eat some days and hadn't attended school since kindergarten.
The child's mother, whom The Associated Press isn't naming to protect the girl's identity, has been charged with three felony counts of child abuse, child endangerment and first-degree assault. She has pleaded not guilty and is in jail awaiting trial.
The mother told state investigators after the child was found in the closet that she began hearing voices in 2007, and the voices told her when she could feed her daughter. The voices also told her to do bad things to the child and that if she didn't, she would suffer pain, according to the court documents obtained by The Kansas City Star.
"It was either her or I suffer," she told the investigator. "I chose her."
The child first came to the attention of the state's child welfare system in February 2006, when the girl's mother admitted she withheld food from the girl so she wouldn't go to the bathroom too often. The state then took over supervision of the child and a younger sister. The younger sister was apparently well cared for, investigators said.
A psychological exam was scheduled for the mother for March 15, 2006. But during a court hearing the day before, records show that Family Court Commissioner John F. Payne canceled the exam and ordered the mother to go to therapy instead. He did not provide an explanation. The records don't indicate any other type of evaluation or assessment during the court-ordered therapy.
Acting DSS director Brian Kinkade said in an email to the Star that the department cannot discuss any details of the mother's therapy.
In 2007, about a month after the mother regained custody, the child found in the closet stopped going to school and essentially disappeared from public view. That was weeks after the family court commissioner declared the child's mother was able to care for her, according to the recently released records.
Once the court terminates jurisdiction and closes a case, Kinkade said, the department "has no further authority to intervene in the family's life."
It doesn't appear that DSS thought further monitoring of the mother was needed, the newspaper reported. At a Family Court hearing in early March 2007, records indicate, no one from social services opposed closing the case.
Since the child's rescue, however, DSS ordered an organization review of its Jackson County Children's Division.