Task Force on the Prevention of Sexual Abuse of Children
Background and History
The Missouri General Assembly established the Task Force on the Prevention of Sexual Abuse of Children in statute in 2011. Led by Missouri KidsFirst, the Task Force was directed to study and identify strategies for preventing child sexual abuse and provide recommendations in a report to the Governor, General Assembly and the State Board of Education by the end of the year.
The Task Force released its initial report in 2012 after holding public hearings and receiving testimony from 35 experts in the field of child abuse. The Report from the Task Force on the Prevention of Sexual Abuse in Children contains a set of twenty-two recommendations in seven core subject areas:
- Community-based child abuse prevention
- Professional training and technical assistance
- Multi-disciplinary team excellence
- Mental health services and treatment
- Statutory changes
After the report’s release, the General Assembly reauthorized the Task Force with a mission to continue to gather information and to begin implementing the report’s recommendations.
Since its inception, Missouri KidsFirst has served as the Task Force’s lead agency. Our staff leads and staffs the coalition and much of our policy and programmatic work has been directed toward implementing the recommendations identified in the report. The full Task Force meets quarterly with various work groups meeting regularly throughout the year.
Task Force on the Prevention of Sexual Abuse of Children Accomplishments
- Advocated for a change to Missouri’s mandatory reporting law (House Bill 505), requiring that mandatory reporters directly report child abuse and eliminating “designated agents” within agencies. The law also prohibits agencies from interfering with reporting or retaliating against workers who make child abuse reports. The law also requires schools to have a policy on mandatory reporting that reflects the new law and provide annual training on mandatory reporting. (Report Recommendation #17)
- Advocated in support of HJR 16 to place a Constitutional Amendment on the November 2014 ballot that would allow propensity evidence to be used in the prosecution of child sex crimes. (Recommendation #16)
- Advocated successfully for funding increases in for Children’s Division, including $2,269,764 for a Children’s Division career ladder, $1,529,930 for a mobility project and technology upgrades, $347,000 for secondary trauma and child abuse investigative training, and $955,704 for Children’s Division salary increases. (Recommendation #9)
- Advocated for revisions in Missouri’s criminal code (Senate Bill 491) that changed the definition of deviate sexual intercourse, added a provision making incest an aggravating factor in sex crimes and increased penalties for several child abuse crimes. (Recommendation #21)
- Advocated for Missouri voters to approve Amendment 2 on the November 2014 ballot allowing propensity evidence to be used in the prosecution of child sex crimes. Missourians approved Amendment 2. (Recommendation #16)
- Advocated for Senate Bill 341 that gives Children’s Division the authority to provide family assessments of youth with problem sexual behaviors. Prior to this statute change, children who were being abused by juveniles with problem sexual behaviors often received no services or protective intervention because there was no entity charged with investigating this type of abuse. (Recommendation #11)
- Advocated for $200,000 and five additional Children’s Division workers associated with the increased caseload expected from expanding CD authority to assess youth with sexual behavior problems. (Recommendation #11)
- Advocated for first-time funding of $500,000 to create a network of mental health providers trained in evidence-based practices for children who have experienced trauma. (Recommendation #12) This funding has made the following activities possible:
- Two Learning Collaboratives on Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavior Therapy (TF-CBT)
- Sixteen training sessions on Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing for Children and Adolescents (EMDR)
- Eight EMDR Certification
- Eight training sessions on Motivational Interviewing
- Two statewide trauma summits
- One Learning Collaborative on Problem Sexual Behavior Cognitive Behavior Therapy (PSB-CBT)
- Provided mini-grants to mental health agencies throughout the state to purchase supplies related to providing evidence-based mental health services.
- Advocated for first-time funding of $1,250,000 to create a case management code in Medicaid for evidence-based mental health services for abused children. (Recommendation #12 and #14)
- Launched a standardized, comprehensive, statewide, online mandated reporter training that is free of charge to all Missourians. Over 10,000 individuals have taken the training to date. (Recommendation #5)
- The Multidisciplinary Team (MDT) Best Practice Workgroup developed tools for child advocacy centers and MDTs to use to maximize collaboration and coordination during child abuse investigations to assure teams are meeting the unique needs of children and their families. (Recommendation #9)
- Advocated to maintain and/or reauthorize funding appropriated in previous years to assure resources are available to sustain the work that has been started.
- Missouri Office of Prosecution Services was able to hire a Child Abuse Resource Prosecutor to provide technical expertise to multidisciplinary teams and local prosecutors. (Recommendation #7)
- New Task Force workgroups formed to address child abuse investigations (including law enforcement) and primary prevention of child sexual abuse (Recommendation #1).
Annual Progress Reports to the General Assembly
From 2014-2018 the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) was required to submit annual reports detailing the Task Force’s progress. The 2018 General Assembly revised the membership of the Task Force (Senate Bill 843) and tasked the Department of Social Services for submitting annual reports beginning in 2019.
Work Group Information
At this time, the Task Force is working on recommendations to strengthen child abuse and neglect prevention and interventions in Missouri through the following work groups:
- Youth with Problem Sexual Behaviors
- Multi-Disciplinary Team Excellence
- Child Abuse Investigations (combining the work of the law enforcement investigations and Children’s Division investigations)
- Child Sexual Abuse Education and Prevention
Upcoming Task Force Meeting Dates
- December 11, 2020
- January 29, 2021
Jessica Seitz, Director of Public Policy