Missouri KidsFirst successfully advocates at the state and federal levels for policies and funding that prioritize the safety and well-being of children. Each year, we testify in public hearings and engage in meetings with lawmakers and advocacy partners. This work has made Missouri KidsFirst the state leader on any public policy issue related to child abuse and neglect.
We consider it a privilege to advocate on behalf of Missouri children. We have diligently worked to improve the way Missouri’s systems respond to issues of child abuse and neglect and have established a track record of legislative success, including securing funding increases for Child Advocacy Centers and the Missouri Children’s Division, changing Missouri’s mandatory reporting law to require direct reporting, revising the state criminal code, increasing penalties for child abuse crimes, supporting the SAFE-CARE network of child abuse medical providers and much more.
For more information about Missouri KidsFirst’s public policy activities, please contact:
Jessica Seitz, Director of Public Policy
2019 MISSOURI KIDSFIRST LEGISLATIVE AGENDA
The 100th legislative session of the Missouri General Assembly convened January 9, 2019. Here’s what we are prioritizing this year:
BUDGET & APPROPRIATIONS
A significant part of our work each legislative session is to secure funding for programs that effectively serve children that have been abused and that promote child abuse prevention. For FY2020, Missouri KidsFirst is working to:
- Maintain state investment in Child Advocacy Centers (CACs). This funding is administered to Missouri’s fifteen regional CACs through the Children’s Division of the Department of Social Services (DSS). The funds—which make up approximately 20% of CAC budgets—are used for expenses needed to operate the centers. CACs are the foundation of the investigation and prosecution of child physical and sexual abuse in Missouri, providing a child-friendly setting where children can be interviewed by multi-disciplinary team members (Children’s Division case workers, law enforcement, prosecutors, juvenile officers and medical providers) and receive medical examinations, family advocacy and mental health services. In FY2019, CACs were funded at $2.95 million.
- Increase line-item spending authorization for federal Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) grants in the DSS budget. DSS needs to have full authority to expend all of the VOCA funds it has, which exceed the FY2019 line-item amount of $45 million. VOCA grants support community-based programs for a range of services that directly improve the physical, mental and emotional health and well-being of victims of crime, as well as aid them through the criminal justice process. Federal VOCA guidelines require that a minimum of 10% of the total funds be distributed to victims of child abuse. Approximately 25% of all Missouri CAC funding comes from VOCA grants which are used for forensic interviewers, mental health counseling, staff training, equipment, advocacy services and other services to promote the healing of child victims of abuse.
- Protect funding for Children’s Division to ensure that the Division has reasonable caseloads and sufficient staff to meet their statutorily required obligations Given that they are the entity charged with investigating allegations of child abuse and keeping these records on file, they are our CACs closest partner and we cannot effectively do our work without high-quality partnerships with the agency staff.
- Support continued funding in the Department of Health and Senior Services for medical forensics training for kids that have been abused. This funding also supports a regionalized medical response to child abuse including a daily review of high-risk cases involving children under the age of 4 by a board-certified child abuse pediatrician. SAFE-CARE is coordinated by Missouri KidsFirst and is a collaboration among DSS, DHSS and Missouri’s three Child Abuse Resource Centers (St. Louis Children’s Hospital, Children’s Mercy Hospital and Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital).
- Promote funding for evidence-based mental health services for traumatized children including continued support of the Missouri Children’s Trauma Network. The MO CTN is a collaborative that coordinates and provides training, technical assistance and other resources to clinicians to help them become certified in evidence-based treatments for children who have experienced trauma due to abuse.
- Establish a comprehensive child abuse prevention and intervention system in schools. This includes expanding training for students, educators and school leaders on how to identify and respond to child abuse.
- Update: Pass the trash” bill designed to crackdown on sexual misconduct by teachers (KOMU February 19, 2019)
- Improve the system response to the commercial sexual exploitation of children, including improved accountability measures for perpetrators and increased services for victims.
- Update: Bill aimed at protecting minors, combatting sex trafficking moves out of House Committee (Missouri Times January 24, 2019)
- Promote comprehensive trauma-informed children and family support systems, including trauma-informed schools.
Thousands of bills are filed each year in the General Assembly. For a full list of bills supported and monitored by Missouri KidsFirst in 2019, including summaries and links to the legislation, check out our 2019 Legislative Tracker.
Follow @MOKidsFirst on Twitter for up-to-date legislative updates throughout session!