Foster care bill receives majority

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Speaker of the House Catherine Hanaway (R-Warson Woods) has spent the last two years working on a bill that would reform foster care.

She spoke with foster care parents, social service workers, law enforcement and others who work daily in the field.

She has revised it several times to include measures suggested by those involved and by other legislatures.

The end result is House Bill 1453. In it are changes to the current laws regarding protective services for children and foster care.

Child abuse and neglect reports, court proceedings, background checks and fingerprinting, foster care and placement of children, privatization of services for children, reports and provisions that create an Office of Child Advocate for Children’s Protection and Services within the Office of Administration are all included in the bill.

“I wish we did not have to have such a long bill,” Hanaway said. “I wish we could have one that was only a page long that simply said parents love your children and take the responsibility that is yours.”

Rep. Barbara Fraser (D-St. Louis) said she could not support the bill until it required all child welfare providers to be licensed or accredited.

Under the current bill, providers only have to have a proven record of providing child welfare services in the state or the ability to provide a range of services.

Providers and agencies that currently contract with the state may also participate in the competitive bid process.

All contracts entered into by the division must be in accordance with federal law and must not result in a loss of federal funding.

Rep. Harold R. Selby (D-Cedar Hill) said he knew how long Hanaway had worked on the bill and he supported it.

Selby said in his district there was one family where the parents were taken into custody and released because of a suspected meth lab. The child was not immediately released to the parents but was a couple weeks later.

Hanaway said she had spoken to one girl who went into the system at age 7 and did not go before a judge until she was 11 years old.

The bill makes provisions that speed up the process and guarantee a team meeting immediately after the 72-hour status conference and additional meetings prior to taking any action relating to the placement of a child in its custody.

House Bill 1453 was voted do pass 106 to 41 April 13 and had its first reading in the Senate.

Also adopted with the bill was the emergency clause that requires all individuals working with children to first be screened.