JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The latest bill signed into law by Governor Eric Greitens is one that he hopes will help safeguard children across the state, particularly those in foster care.
The Republican Governor on Thursday morning, joined by his wife and Reps. Diane Franklin and Cloria Brown and Sen. David Sater, signed SB 160, or as they call it, the Foster Care Bill of Rights.
SB 160 puts forth a list of rights that aims to ensure the protection of children, while also providing tools to protect them from traffickers, making the act of sex trafficking of minors a form of child abuse under Missouri law. It also bans people who have been convicted of sex crimes against children from coming within 500 feet of children’s museums.
It requires that children be informed – in writing – of their rights when taken into custody by police or juvenile officers and that foster kids be told their rights. A further piece of the legislation allows the Department of Social Services to keep reports of child abuse when the perpetrator of the abuse is known, essentially creating a file on the abuse of the children. Currently, the agency has to destroy those records if not enough sufficient evidence is found during the investigation.
“There are over 13,000 children currently in foster care in our state,” First Lady Sheena Greitens said. “And they have so much courage and so much potential, and we are delighted for them to have a voice. Their voices are powerful and you see just a piece of that potential and that power today.”
“These are our kids,” Greitens said, his voice cracking with emotion. “The 13,000 kids in the state of Missouri in the foster care system, they are both, in law and in spirit, our kids. We all have to find a way to step up and help every single one of them recognize all of their God-given potential.”
The First Lady and Sen. Sater both said that this was the first step in a long list of things to do to make Missouri’s child welfare system the best in the nation, both promising that there’s still much more to come.
“We are very grateful that Governor Greitens and the First Lady remain committed to keeping Missouri’s children safe,“ said Austin Stukins, Executive Director of the Missouri Republican Party. “This bill will help ensure that Missouri’s children have every opportunity to thrive, and this means a better, brighter Missouri.”
Benjamin Peters is a reporter for the Missouri Times and Missouri Times Magazine, and also produces the #MoLeg Podcast. He joined the Missouri Times in 2016 after working as a sports editor and TV news producer in mid-Missouri. Benjamin is a graduate of Missouri State University in Springfield. To contact Benjamin, email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @BenjaminDPeters.