SS/HCS/HB 1877 - This act adds to the list of crimes that make an individual eligible for placement on the central registry for child abuse and neglect the following offenses: sexual exploitation of a minor, possession of child pornography, furnishing pornographic materials to minors, using a child in sexual performances, and promoting sexual performance by a child.
This act requires the clerk of a court, when the court finds by a preponderance of the evidence in certain actions that a party is responsible for child abuse or neglect, to send a certified copy of the judgment or order to the Children's Division (CD) and the appropriate prosecuting attorney. Upon receipt of the order, the CD shall list the individual as a perpetrator of child abuse or neglect in the central registry. The clerk and CD shall do the same in cases where an individual has pled to or been found guilty of certain specified crimes including murder, manslaughter, assault, child abandonment, or sexual offenses against children or an attempt to commit such crimes.
This act requires the juvenile court, and all parties in a case involving a foster child in the care of the state, to defer to the reasonable decisions of the child's designated caregiver involving the child's participation in extracurricular, enrichment, cultural, and social activities. Caregivers shall use the "reasonable and prudent parent standard," which is defined as the standard characterized by careful and sensible parental decisions that maintain the health, safety, and best interests of a child while at the same time encouraging the emotional and developmental growth of the child. A caregiver's decisions regarding the child may only be overturned by the court if, upon notice and a hearing, the court finds by clear and convincing evidence that the reasonable and prudent parent standard has been violated. Caregivers have the right to receive notice of the hearing, attend it, and present evidence.
Caregivers shall receive training regarding the reasonable and prudent parent standard. Caregivers shall not be liable for harm caused to a child participating in an activity chosen by the caregiver if the caregiver acted in accordance with the reasonable and prudent parent standard. No court shall order the CD or any contracted agency to fund activities chosen by the caregiver.
Under this act, children in foster care who are at least 14 years old shall be consulted in the development of, revision of, or addition to their case plan. The children may choose individuals to participate as members of the family support team. The CD may reject those individuals if it has good cause to believe the individuals would not act in the best interests of the child. The child may also designate one member to be his or her advisor and, as necessary, advocate, with respect to the application of the reasonable and prudent parent standard to the child. The child shall receive a document which describes specific enumerated rights and a signed acknowledgment by the child indicating that he or she has been provided with a copy of the document and his or her rights have been explained in an appropriate manner. If a child is leaving foster care at age 18, the CD shall provide the child specified documents, unless the child is otherwise ineligible.
No child in foster care under the age of 16 shall have a permanency plan of another planned permanent living arrangement. For children with permanency plans of another planned permanent living arrangement, the court shall make specified findings of fact and conclusions of law at each permanency hearing emphasizing the CD's continuous and unsuccessful efforts to return the child home or to secure a placement with a fit and willing relative or adoptive parent, the child's desired permanency outcome, and a judicial determination that it continues not to be in the child's best interests to return home, to be placed with a legal guardian or relative, or to be adopted.
This act also grants the family court exclusive original jurisdiction in proceedings involving youth for whom a petition to return the youth to the CD's custody has been filed. Under current law, if a youth under 21 years of age has been released from the CD's custody and it appears to be in the youth's best interests to return to such custody, the juvenile officer, the CD, or the youth may petition the court to return the youth to the CD's custody. This act requires the petition to be filed in the court that had previously exercised jurisdiction over the youth, the court in the county where the youth resides, or the court of an adjacent county.
When determining if such a return to custody is in the youth's best interests, the court shall consider: (1) the circumstances of the youth; (2) whether the CD has services or programs that will benefit the youth; and (3) whether the youth will fully cooperate with the CD in designing and implementing a case plan. The court shall not return a youth to the CD's custody if that youth has been committed to the custody of another agency, is under a legal guardianship, or has pled to or been found guilty of a felony criminal offense. The court may, upon a motion by the CD or the youth, terminate care and supervision before the youth's 21st birthday if the court finds that CD does not have services available for the youth, the youth no longer needs services, or if the youth declines to cooperate with the case plan. At the youth's discretion, the youth may request to be appointed a guardian ad litem. Finally, the court shall hold review hearings as necessary, provided that at least one hearing is held every six months for as long as the youth is in the CD's custody.
These provisions are substantially similar to provisions in SCS/SB 979 (2016), SB 963 (2016), provisions in SS/SCS/HB 556 (2015), SB 518 (2015), and SB 525 (2015).
Under this act, upon receipt of a report of child abuse or neglect concerning a child three years of age or younger and the Division's determination that such report merits an investigation, such investigation shall include an evaluation of the child by a SAFE CARE provider or a review of the child's case file and photographs of the injuries by a SAFE CARE provider. When a SAFE CARE provider makes a diagnosis that a child three years of age or younger has been subjected to physical abuse, including but not limited to, symptoms indicative of abusive bruising, fractures, burns, abdominal injuries, or head trauma, and the provider reports such diagnosis to the CD, the CD shall immediately submit a referral to the juvenile officer that shall include the CD's recommendations and reasoning regarding the care, safety, and placement of the child.
Additionally, certain CD employees shall attend at least 4 hours of training each year in medical forensics relating to child abuse and neglect as approved by the SAFE CARE network.
These provisions are substantially similar to SCS/SB 1101 (2016).
This act also creates the "Missouri Task Force on the Prevention of Infant Abuse and Neglect", which shall study and make recommendations to the Governor and General Assembly concerning the prevention of infant abuse and neglect in Missouri. The act specifies the task force membership and duties. The task force shall submit a report of its findings and recommendations to the Governor and General Assembly on or before December 31, 2016. The task force shall expire on January 1, 2017, or upon submission of the report.