Kansas Boy, Missing for 10 Years, Was Once in State Custody

A boy whose disappearance went unreported for 10 years was once taken away from his adoptive parents, then returned days later, Kansas' social services agency said Thursday.

Adam Herrman was in protective custody for two days in 1996 after a report of physical abuse, said Michelle Ponce, spokeswoman for the state Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services. The boy was returned to his adoptive parents, Valerie and Doug Herrman, after authorities reviewed the evidence and found the report unsubstantiated.

"We are doing a thorough review of all our case records involving Adam and his family," Ponce said.

Adam was 11 years old when he disappeared in 1999 from his adoptive parents' mobile home in Towanda. He would be 21 years old now if he is still alive.

His disappearance finally came to light last week when authorities — acting on a tip to the Sedgwick County Exploited and Missing Children's Unit — searched the empty lot in Towanda where the family's mobile home once stood.

No charges have been filed. Butler County Sheriff Craig Murphy said consideration of any charges would wait while officials concentrate on the search.

The Herrmans did not return a message seeking comment Thursday.

The family's attorney, Warner Eisenbise, has said Adam had a history of running away. Eisenbise said his clients thought the boy had done so again when he disappeared in 1999 and felt "very guilty" not reporting it at the time. Eisenbise has said the family had nothing to do with his disappearance, but acknowledged that other charges may be coming in connection with the case.

The Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services confirmed Thursday that the Herrmans continued to receive adoption subsidy payments for Adam after he was missing, but the agency could not immediately determine how much. The department said it was researching the case.

Such subsidies generally are given in situations where the children are difficult to place or in cases in which several siblings are adopted by the same family, she said.

The Herrmans adopted Adam and two of his younger siblings, family members have said.

Families receiving adoption subsidies are required to file a yearly report to verify ongoing legal and financial responsibility for the child, she said.

"If there were a situation in which an individual would knowingly supply false information to the state in order to receive benefits, that is a crime," Ponce said.