Missouri KidsFirst successfully advocates at the state and federal levels for policies and funding for programs that protect children from abuse and prioritize their safety and well-being. Each year, we testify in public hearings and engage in meetings with lawmakers and advocacy partners. We are proud to advocate on behalf of Missouri children to improve the way our systems respond to child abuse and neglect.
For more information about Missouri KidsFirst’s public policy activities, please contact:
Jessica Seitz, Executive Director
2022 MISSOURI KIDSFIRST LEGISLATIVE UPDATE
The Second Regular session of the 101st Missouri General Assembly convened on January 5th and concluded on May 13th, with Governor Parson signing bills, including the state’s operating budget, in June and July. While thousands of bills are introduced each year, only 45 non-appropriations bills and resolutions made it over the finish line to the Governor’s desk in 2022.
BUDGET & APPROPRIATIONS
A significant part of our work each session is to support funding for agencies and programs that serve children who have been victims of abuse and neglect and that work to prevent child abuse. This year, the Missouri General Assembly passed a historic $49 billion budget. This record setting sum is due to the influx of federal funds from COVID-related stimulus packages. House Bill 3020 allocated nearly $3 billion in American Relief Plan Act (ARPA) state fiscal recovery funds including projects for public institutions of higher education and broadband infrastructure.
Funding for Child Advocacy Centers
This year, a top priority for Missouri KidsFirst was to secure additional funding for the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) program using federal ARPA funds. VOCA, which is the largest source of funding for Missouri child advocacy centers, has faced reductions in the past three years due to decreased income from the federal crime victims fund. Congress passed the VOCA Fix in 2021 which should improve Fund levels and Missouri KidsFirst sought ARPA funding to bridge the gap. During the 2022 session, the General Assembly appropriated a total of $36 million in federal ARPA funding for the Victims of Crime Act, $12M was included in House Bill 3014, the emergency supplemental funding bill, and $24M was included in House Bill 3020, the ARPA spending bill.
While much of the attention focused on allocating the federal dollars, the state’s operating budget contained a number of significant funding items. This year, we are thrilled to share that Missouri KidsFirst secured an increase to the state funding (general revenue) line-item for child advocacy centers (CACs), the first increase since 2015. Beginning FY 2023 (July 1, 2022-June 30, 2022) CACs will receive approximately $3.5 million/year, an increase of 20%. This funding is allocated to CACs by formula based on population and county share. For more information on state funding for CACs, check out our 2022 advocacy handout and our estimated breakdown of this funding by Center.
Other Missouri KidsFirst Funding Priorities
Department of Health and Senior Services—Division of Community and Public Health: SAFE-CARE Program—SAFE-CARE Program Administration & Regional Medical Response to Child Abuse (10.710).
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). Child abuse pediatricians at the Resource Centers review almost 5,000 cases each year using the triage system. Level funded in SFY2023.
Department of Public Safety—Office of the Director–State Services to Victims Fund (8.035)
The State Services to Victims Fund provides grants to community-based programs for a range of direct services to victims of crime, including child advocacy centers. Awards are made competitively and support services including victim advocacy, counseling and multi-disciplinary team (Children’s Division, law enforcement, prosecutors, juvenile officers, and medical and mental health providers) investigation team coordination. $2 million in state crime fines, level funded in SFY2023.
Department of Public Safety–Crime Victims Compensation (8.045)
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. Both programs ensure that victims are given access to examinations at no cost. For SFY2023, $12.9 million in federal and state funding and crime fines including an increase of $200,000 for reimbursement for child physical abuse exams, an increase of $500,000 in spending authority for SAFE program and $600,000 in federal authority for the CVC
Education omnibus repeals outdated child abuse investigation laws and makes changes to policies around the use of corporal punishment in schools
In the final days of session, lawmakers passed SB 681, sponsored by Senator O’Laughlin (R-Shelbina) an education omnibus loaded with programs and reforms for K-12 education. Included in the bill was the removal of out-of-date language (originally in HB 2095, sponsored by Representative Hannah Kelly) related to investigations of child abuse (other than sexual abuse) perpetrated by school personnel. Under the former law, public schools, not Children’s Division, were authorized to investigate themselves in these cases, giving the school has the first say in protecting their employees. The General Assembly has made great progress on this issue since 2011, passing several measures to improve the way our systems respond to cases of abuse in schools, including changes to our mandated reporting laws and the “pass the trash” bill in 2019. But loopholes and gaps in our laws still exist and this was one of them. Passage of this language improves our laws to help ensure that schools are not institutions that cover up child abuse but instead protect children.
The act also now requires school districts to notify parents and receive written permission before using corporal punishment. While many states have banned the practice, Missouri is one of 19 states still allowing for corporal punishment in public schools from preschool through 12th grade. Missouri KidsFirst believes that physical punishment – an adult’s use of physical force (e.g., corporal punishment, spanking, paddling) to punish a child or correct a child’s inappropriate behavior – increases aggression in young children and is ineffective in teaching a child responsibility and self-control. Further, evidence suggests that corporal punishment may cause further harm to the child by affecting healthy brain development. We advocate for a prohibition on the use of corporal punishment in schools and believe that the changes included into law this year will reduce this practice and move Missouri closer to its full elimination.
Child sex trafficking protections included in judicial proceedings bill, establishing Statewide Council on Sex Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation of Children
Lawmakers also passed SB 775 (Senators Thompson Rehder and Schupp), an omnibus making a number of changes to the judicial process, specifically in regard to cases of sexual assault and child trafficking, designed to improve protections for survivors. HB 2032, a Missouri KidsFirst priority sponsored by Representative Ed Lewis, was included in the final package. The new law would protect victims of child trafficking by removing the need for minors arrested for prostitution to show coercion for them to be immune from prosecution. This will help to ensure that our laws treat victims of child sex trafficking as such. The law also establishes the Statewide Council on Sex Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation of Children. Along with legislators and state agency leadership, Missouri KidsFirst, the Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence and service providers will serve on the Council which will collect data related to the sex trafficking of children, review best practices regarding the prevention of and response to the issue and submit recommendations to the governor and General Assembly by the end of 2023.
What else was introduced this year? What did not pass?
Thousands of bills are filed each year in the General Assembly. For a full list of bills supported and monitored by Missouri KidsFirst in 2022, including summaries and links to the legislation, check out our 2022 Bill Tracker.
Follow @MOKidsFirst on Twitter for up-to-date legislative updates throughout session!