Working to Protect Our Children From Dangerous Predators
In 2017, 5,141 Missouri children were involved in claims of abuse or neglect. Even worse, 32 Missouri children died as a result of abuse or neglect during the same year. Just one child dying from abuse and neglect is too many, and as a result, my colleagues and I passed several, meaningful bills intended to stop child abuse and neglect in Missouri.
On Friday, June 1 the governor signed Senate Bill 819 into state law which contains numerous provisions intended to protect children from dangerous individuals. The legislation adds several additional crimes to the list of offenses that require a juvenile officer or an official with the state’s Children’s Division to a file a petition with the court to terminate parental rights. Currently, crimes such as child pornography and child molestation are left up to the state’s discretion and do not require an automatic referral to the court system. Senate Bill 819 requires the state to file a termination petition if the parent pleads guilty or is convicted of child pornography or child molestation charges. For the sake of our children’s future, we must add these heinous acts to the list of crimes that trigger an automatic review of a guardian’s parental rights.
In addition, the legislation makes it easier for the state’s Children’s Division and other state agencies to share information regarding child abuse or neglect investigations. The bill includes language allowing for the sharing of information between states. Many of the reforms are a result of the death of Adrian Jones, a Kansas boy who was killed by his father and stepmother in 2015. The family moved between Kansas and Missouri several times, and many believe his death could have been prevented if the states could have shared information regarding his abuse. In addition, the legislation requires the Children’s Division to retain all information regarding a child abuse investigation for 10 years, even if there is insufficient evidence of abuse or neglect. The legislation also requires the division to retain all investigation records involving a missing child alleged to have been abused or neglected for 18 years. These common-sense reforms provide the state with the tools needed to expose and prosecute individuals who abuse our children.
The Missouri General Assembly also gave final approval to House Bill 1350 which makes several changes to state law regarding background checks for child care providers. This legislation includes language requiring all licensed child care providers and their employees to pass a nationwide criminal background check in order to operate in Missouri. Currently, only home child care providers that receive federal funds are subject to a federal background check requirement. While this legislation is necessary for Missouri to remain in compliance with the Child Care Development Block Grant Act, I believe requiring all child care workers to pass a nationwide criminal background check is vital to ensuring the safety of thousands of Missouri children who attend daycare facilities. This background check requirement would apply to anyone coming into contact with a child at a daycare facility, including all employees, contractors and volunteers. The legislation allows newly employed child care workers to begin working as soon as they apply for the background check, but they must be supervised at all times until the check is completed. The legislation is currently awaiting final approval from the governor’s office.
The safety of all Missouri children is a top priority for every lawmaker in the Missouri General Assembly. I am thankful the governor signed SB 819 into law. Through these common-sense solutions, I believe we can protect our state’s children and provide law enforcement and state officials with the tools they need to identify and stop child abuse and neglect.
As always, it is an honor and privilege to be your State Senator and my door is always open to your concerns, questions or comments. Please feel free to contact me at (573) 751-2757 or visit my web page at www.senate.mo.gov/riddle.