In what could be the first case of its kind to be prosecuted in Kansas, a woman is facing felony charges of having consensual sex with a 17-year-old in her foster care.
Teresa Lee Snyder, a 44-year-old registered nurse, is charged in McPherson County with four counts of unlawful sexual relations with the teen in August and September while he was a foster child in her care, according to the complaint filed by prosecutors in District Court.
The charges allege that she had “consensual sexual intercourse” with the then-17-year-old “while she was a person in a position of authority in a family foster home” licensed by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.
Snyder, who is scheduled to enter a formal plea during a July 1 arraignment, faces imprisonment of 31 months to 136 months and a fine up to $300,000 for each of the four counts, the complaint says.
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Her attorney, Bob Thompson of Salina, said it’s the first time he has heard of a new subsection of the law being applied as it is against Snyder. She is charged under a recent addition to state law that makes it a crime for someone in authority in a foster home to have consensual sex with a foster child 16 or older who is in his or her care.
The foster-care addition to the law took effect July 1, before the incidents alleged in Snyder’s case. The addition is part of the law on unlawful sexual relations that also includes correctional officers, law enforcement officers, parole officers, teachers and other people in positions of authority.
Attorney General Derek Schmidt requested the change in the law because it seemed logical to include foster parents, said Kyle Smith, deputy director of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation and an assistant attorney general who handles legislative matters. The law is designed to protect teens from people upon whom they rely, Smith said.
He also said that the Snyder case could be the first to be prosecuted under the foster-care section of the unlawful sexual relations law.
Thompson, Snyder’s attorney, said he couldn’t comment on the case. McPherson County Attorney David Page said he couldn’t comment because the case is pending.
Snyder has waived a preliminary hearing, where evidence would have been submitted to convince a judge that the case should proceed to trial. No trial date has been set.
Snyder held a foster care license with the state from February 2012 until November 2012, said Angela de Rocha, spokeswoman for the Kansas Department for Children and Families. Snyder’s license was canceled in the month before she was charged in court. De Rocha said she couldn’t comment on why the license was canceled.
De Rocha said she can’t comment on the handling of a specific case partly because “one of our primary obligations is to protect the privacy of any victim.” But in general, if a significant problem arises in a foster home, the foster children go to “another placement that is appropriate to their needs,” she said.
A foster parent accused of having sex with a foster child is “extremely rare,” De Rocha said. “People who become foster parents really want to help. The vast majority of foster parents have good hearts.”
To become a foster parent, she said, a person has to go through “very rigorous requirements” that include a criminal background check and extensive training designed to determine whether they would be suitable for caring for foster children, who enter the state system because they have been found to be in need of care after suffering abuse or neglect.
State records show Snyder has been licensed as a registered nurse since 1993.
Under state law, if a nurse is convicted of a “person felony,” the Kansas State Board of Nursing can review whether the license should be revoked, said Diane Glynn, practice and registered nurse specialist with the board. A license can’t be revoked until a nurse has a chance to have a hearing before the board, Glynn said.
The board wasn’t aware of the charges against Snyder until The Eagle called about the case, Glynn said. As a result of that call, she said, the board is opening its own investigation.