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Gov. Laura Kelly has ordered the state agency that oversees foster care to investigate the death of a 17-year-old who was restrained facedown for more than 30 minutes last fall at a Wichita juvenile intake center after his foster father called begging for help because the teen was hallucinating. Kelly called the situation “tragic" in calling for the Kansas Department for Children and Families to review the case of Cedric Lofton and see if policies needed to be changed. Her comments come one week after Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett expressed concerns about the handling of Lofton’s case when he announced that he wouldn’t file any criminal charges. 

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The latest national child welfare report shows an increase in the number of Black children who died, even though fewer abuse-related fatalities were investigated in the yearlong period that included the first several months of the pandemic. The findings were released in the 2020 Child Maltreatment Report, issued Friday by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The report covers data from October 2019 to September 2020 and only partially reflects how COVID-19 disrupted child-welfare work. The report noted an overall 10% drop in the number of child protective services cases handled by states in the early days of the pandemic. That’s a troubling trend The Associated Press revealed last year with an analysis of state data.

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New research suggests giving extra cash to low-income mothers can change their infants’ brain development. Measurements at age 1 showed faster brain activity in key regions in infants whose families received $300-plus each month. That's compared to infants in families who got $20. The same type of brain activity has been linked in older children to learning skills and other development. It's not known, though, whether the differences found in the infants will persist or influence their future. The U.S. researchers published their findings Monday. They are investigating whether the payments led to better nutrition, less parent stress or other benefits to the infants.

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Police say an 8-year-old girl who died after being shot in the head by a gunman targeting someone else on Chicago’s Southwest Side has been identified. The Cook County medical examiner's office identified the girl Sunday as Melissa Ortega. Family members organizing an online effort to pay for funeral services say the girl and her mother moved to Chicago from Mexico last year. A police report says Melissa was walking with her mother on Saturday afternoon when someone fired at a 26-year-old man, who police believe was the intended target. The girl was shot in the head and was pronounced dead at a hospital. The man police believe was the intended target was shot in the back and was hospitalized in critical condition. The shooting happened amid a spike in homicides in Chicago.

Hungary's nationalist leader is keen to use the threat of migrants at his country's southern border to give him an advantage in the upcoming general election. But the scale of migration pressure claimed by Prime Minister Viktor Orban is drawn into question by statistics from neighboring Serbia and the European Union's border agency. Many migrants from Syria, Afghanistan and other countries make dozens of attempts to cross into Hungary and authorities apprehend them and return them to Serbia. This practice is known as a “pushback" and it has been declared illegal by the EU's top court. It also leads to misleading statistics kept by Hungarian authorities and aids Orban's anti-immigration campaign. 

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Authorities say a wildfire in a central Texas state park is no longer growing and no injuries were reported after the blaze burned 1.2 square miles in the city of Bastrop. Texas A&M Forest Service spokesperson Kari Hines said Wednesday that no homes have been reported destroyed, some families have returned to their homes and warmer conditions with lower winds and higher humidity will help firefighters on Wednesday. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Director Carter Smith says the cause of the fire has not been determined, but embers from a prescribed burn at Bastrop State Park is suspected.

A high-profile killing at New York City’s busiest subway station has injected fresh unease into the perception of whether the subway system is safe. Mayor Eric Adams made a point of taking the subway to City Hall on his first day to work on Jan. 1. He had announced plans to boost the presence of police officers in the subway and reach out to homeless people in stations and trains. He said it's part of a mission to combat “actual crime” and “the perception of crime.” But the former police captain admitted Tuesday that even he didn’t feel entirely safe on the subway.

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Police say a woman was pushed to her death in front of a subway train by a homeless man at New York's Times Square station. Authorities say 61-year-old Simon Martial fled but later turned himself in and has been charged with murder. They say the 40-year-old victim lived in the city and was waiting for a southbound R train Saturday morning when she was shoved. A second woman told police the man had approached her minutes earlier and she feared he would push her onto the tracks. The killing came little more than a week after the mayor and governor announced plans to boost subway policing and outreach to homeless people.

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For the first time in half a year, families on Friday are going without a monthly deposit from the child tax credit. The program was intended to be part of President Joe Biden’s legacy but has instead become a flash point over who is worthy of government support. The monthly tax credits started arriving thanks to Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package, and the president had proposed extending them for another full year as part of a separate measure focused on economic and social programs. But that bill is stalled in the Senate. More than 36 million families received the payments in December. 

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The late Betty White was a tireless advocate for animals for her entire life, from caring for homeless animals as a child to launching her own weekly TV show “The Pet Set” dedicated to her celebrity friends and their pets. Her biggest contribution, though, may be yet to come, as fans get set to donate to animal welfare charities and local shelters on Jan. 17 as part of the #BettyWhiteChallenge. And animal welfare nonprofits are already gearing up to make the most of the viral tribute to the star of “The Golden Girls” and “Hot in Cleveland” on what would have been her 100th birthday.