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Missouri reforms foster system, expanding rights for parents and children 

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Gov. Mike Parson signed a pair of bills into law increasing child protection in Missouri and making changes to the foster system. 

HB 1414, sponsored by Rep. Sheila Solon, and SB 653, sponsored by Sen. Sandy Crawford, include multiple provisions aimed at increasing child protection in Missouri. Both bills reform Missouri’s foster care system and expand the rights of foster children and parents.

The bills allow foster parents access to medical records, allow for non-expiring child care licenses, require a risk assessment within 72 hours of a report of abuse or neglect in a foster home, create temporary alternative placement agreements, and prohibit the requirement for children to appear in court unless the judge and family think it’s in the best interests of the child.

“Even in a pandemic-shortened legislative session, the legislature prioritized our most vulnerable children by passing this sweeping child protection bill,” Solon said in a statement. “This bill improves transparency, modernizes, and expands best practices to ensure that the foster system remains focused on the best interests of each child.”

HB 1414 also allows homeless youths to access their birth certificates for free and gives them access to Medicaid coverage and mental health services. The bill provides new provisions for child care facilities, including the procedures for background checks, and removes the requirement to renew licenses every two years. Provisions on substance abuse treatment waivers and children in military families are also included in the bill.

“The passage of this bill is the work of passionate policymakers and it will positively impact children of all ages,” said Craig Stevenson, director of policy and advocacy for Kids Win Missouri. “We are grateful for the partnership of the legislature and thank Gov. Parson for signing this important legislation.”

The reforms have received support from other Missouri legislators. 

“Missouri has not taken a significant look at our child welfare statutes in more than 15 years,” said Rep. Mary Elizabeth Coleman. “Creating temporary alternative placement agreements and requiring a standard risk assessment within 72 hours of a report of a report of child abuse or neglect is critical for improving outcomes of our foster care system for our children.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic has elevated concerns around the health of everyone, including our homeless youth who are at an elevated risk of mental health issues. This legislation will enable these vulnerable young people to seek supportive mental health services,” said Rep. Patricia Pike.

SB 653 allows the Children’s Division to share records and other information with local and federal law enforcement and child welfare agencies in circumstances where the information is needed to protect the child. 

“Today was a great day for the foster families in Missouri,” Crawford told The Missouri Times. “Foster parents are the trusted caregivers of our state’s most vulnerable children.  SB 653 gives foster parents the tools necessary to protect foster children both inside and outside the courtroom. I am so proud to have sponsored this legislation. I am very pleased that Gov. Parson signed SB 653.”

Parson also signed a bill increasing protections for rape victims on Monday.

Parson is set to sign bills regarding controlled substances, retirement, health care, design professionals, and the Anti-Discrimination Against Israel Act as well on Monday.

EDITOR’S NOTE: For up-to-date information on coronavirus, check with the CDC and DHSS.