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
2020 MISSOURI KIDSFIRST LEGISLATIVE AGENDA
The 2020 legislative session of the Missouri General Assembly convened January 8, 2020 and will wrap-up on May 15. 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. Missouri KidsFirst testified before House and Senate Appropriations Committees the week of January 20th. For FY2021, 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 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 and mental health providers) and receive medical examinations, family advocacy and counseling services. In SFY 2019, Missouri CACs served over 11,000 children. In FY2020, CACs were funded at $2.95 million and in FY2021, the Governor and General Assembly recommend level funding.
- Protect federal Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) grants in the DSS budget. VOCA funding comes from federal court fees. Passed through the Missouri Department of Social Services, 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. Missouri CACs use VOCA funding for forensic interviewers, mental health counseling, staff training, equipment, advocacy services and other services to promote the healing of child victims of abuse. In FY2021, VOCA spending authorization is requested at $63 million.
- 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. The SAFE-CARE (Sexual Assault Forensic Examination-Child Abuse Resource and Education) program, administered by DHSS in partnership with Missouri KidsFirst, develops and maintains a coordinated medical response to child abuse and neglect in Missouri. DHSS funding supports training, mentorship and ongoing education for medical providers on the forensic evaluation and comprehensive medical care of children who may have suffered physical or sexual abuse. This program also supports a regionalized medical response to child abuse, including providing triage and medical review of cases of children three and under referred by the Children’s Division and leading medical forensics trainings to providers and multi-disciplinary team members. The regionalized response 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).
- Support Victims’ Compensation programs administered by the Department of Public Safety: The Crime Victims’ Compensation (CVC) Program provides financial assistance to victims who have suffered physical harm as a result of violent crime. For victims of child sexual abuse in Missouri, appropriate medical providers bill the Sexual Assault Forensic Examination (SAFE) Program within the CVC Program for the charges incurred in collecting evidence during the forensic examination. Additionally, the CVC Program makes payments to medical providers who provide forensic examinations of persons under eighteen years of age who are alleged victims of physical abuse.
Thousands of bills are filed each year in the General Assembly. For a full list of bills supported and monitored by Missouri KidsFirst in 2020, including summaries and links to the legislation, check out our 2020 Legislative Tracker.
Follow @MOKidsFirst on Twitter for up-to-date legislative updates throughout session!