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. We are proud to advocate on behalf of Missouri children to improve the way our systems respond to child abuse and neglect.
2021 Legislative Updates: (Subscribe to our newsletter at the bottom of the page)
For more information about Missouri KidsFirst’s public policy activities, please contact:
Jessica Seitz, Director of Public Policy
2021 MISSOURI KIDSFIRST LEGISLATIVE AGENDA
Missouri lawmakers returned to Jefferson City on January 6 for the start of the 2021 session. The First Regular session of the 101st General Assembly will run through May 14, 2021.
BUDGET & APPROPRIATIONS
Maintain crucial funding to protect children. 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. For FY 2022, Missouri KidsFirst is working to:
- Restore funding for Children’s Division to ensure 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 closest partner. We cannot effectively do our work without high-quality partnerships with the Children’s Division. Unfortunately, cuts to the FY2021 state budget as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in substantial layoffs. Missouri KidsFirst is committed to advocating for the restoration of these funds.
- 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 2020, Missouri CACs served over 11,000 children. In FY2021, CACs were funded at $2.95 million.
- 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.
- Maintain funding for the SAFE-CARE (Sexual Assault Forensic Examination-Child Abuse Resource and Education) program. Administered by the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) in partnership with Missouri KidsFirst, the SAFE-CARE program 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.
Support the “Child Residential Home Notification Act” (House Bill 557 & 560), legislation which would improve protections for children in unlicensed residential facilities.
This legislation would require all child residential homes, those currently exempt from licensing, to register with the state and comply with minimum health and safety regulations and also mandates federal criminal background checks for all employees and volunteers. The intent of this law is to close loopholes which have existed in Missouri law for decades which have left children unprotected and vulnerable to abuse.
Learn more: “MO bills would crack down on unlicensed boarding schools ‘to prevent further abuses” (KC Star, December 18, 2020)
What else are we working on?
Thousands of bills are filed each year in the General Assembly. For a full list of bills supported and monitored by Missouri KidsFirst in 2021, including summaries and links to the legislation, check out our 2021 Bill Tracker.
Follow @MOKidsFirst on Twitter for up-to-date legislative updates throughout session!