TOPEKA, Kan. – A state senator wants to know if the Kansas social services department had any contact with an 11-year-old boy who went missing a decade ago but whose disappearance wasn't reported until this month.
Adam Herrman disappeared from his home in Towanda in 1999. His disappearance came to life last week when authorities acting on a tip searched the empty lot where his adoptive family's mobile home once sat.
State Sen. Jean Schodorf, the Senate assistant majority leader, said Friday she had asked Don Jordan, secretary of the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services, to look for any signs that authorities had needed to take Adam out of the home and whether the state played a part in his disappearance by not acting on them.
"We need to ... find out if indeed the state or the system lost this child somewhere," said Schodorf. "It is just a mystery. Maybe everything was done correctly."
Michelle Ponce, spokeswoman for the social services department, said it already was conducting a "very thorough review" and would cooperate with any criminal investigation.
The department and Derby police said they investigated at least two reports of suspected abuse of Adam in 1996 and 1998.
Adam was in protective custody for two days following the 1996 report, but was returned to adoptive parents Valerie and Doug Herrman after authorities determined the report was unsubstantiated, Ponce said.
Schodorf said Adam's adoptive parents withdrew him from a Derby public school and began home-schooling him around the time of his disappearance.
State law requires operators of home schools to provide a name and address but doesn't require records of students who are home-schooled, said Ed Libber, general counsel for the Kansas Department of Education. State records listed a Herrman School with a Derby address as a non-accredited private school in January 1998.
Schodorf said she wasn't pushing for changing the laws to increase scrutiny when children are withdrawn from school.
"I think we've got to piece together this boy's life and then decide if the state needs to change their regulations," she said. "And it's probably too hard to tell now."