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2021 Legislative Session Comes to a Close
The First Regular session of the 101st Missouri General Assembly adjourned on May 14, 2021. This year resulted in many legislative wins to protect children, including Missouri KidsFirst’s top priority, the Residential Care Facility Notification Act which would provide safeguards for children living in unlicensed residential facilities. This issue has been a concern for child advocates for decades and was long overdue. The Act passed with wide bipartisan support.

Missouri KidsFirst advocates for policies and statewide funding for programs that protect children from abuse and prioritize their safety and wellbeing. 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.

This year, several Missouri KidsFirst priorities were truly agreed to and finally passed (TAFPd), including legislation which would:

  • Improve protections for children in unlicensed residential facilities (HB 557/560);
  • Create unpaid leave from work for employees who are household or family members of victims of child abuse to help their children seek victims services, including at a child advocacy center and for employees who are victims of domestic and sexual violence (HB 432, originally proposed in SB 16);
  • Codify uniformity for parent notification for seclusion and restraint policies in schools (HB 432, originally proposed in HB 387);
  • Establish the Birth Match Program which requires data sharing between the Children's Division and Department of Health and Senior Services in order to offer early intervention and services to families identified as high risk of maltreatment (HB 432); and
  • Clarify provisions to allow adolescent victims of abuse (ages 14-17) to be referred to a SAFE-CARE provider if they present at a hospital where there is not one on staff (HB 432, originally proposed in HB 1179).

Finally, appropriations bills passed that maintain current funding for agencies and programs that serve children who have been victims of abuse and neglect and that work to prevent child abuse.

For a full recap of the legislature's actions on Missouri KidsFirst's priorities, visit our website here.
Senate Committee Hearing on HB 557/560
(L-R) Allen Knoll-Witness, Kelly Schultz-Office of Child Advocate, Representative Rudy Veit, Representative Keri Ingle, Jessica Seitz-Missouri KidsFirst
Representative Rudy Veit & Keri Ingle introduce HB 557/560 before the House Committee on Children and Families
Missouri KidsFirst’s Top Priority: The “Residential Care Facility Notification Act” Passes with resounding support in the Missouri legislature
On May 13, legislators passed and sent the governor House Bill 557/560, legislation that creates safeguards for children living in unlicensed boarding schools. 

Sponsored by Representatives Rudy Veit (R-Wardsville) and Keri Ingle (D-Lee's Summit), passage of HB 557/560 will end Missouri’s status as one of only two states without any regulation of youth residential facilities. Lack of oversight of these facilities in Missouri has been an issue of concern for child advocates for decades. However, the last time the legislature tried unsuccessfully to take action was over twenty years ago. Over the years, horrific cases have come to light over the years prompting numerous calls for action. House Bill 557/560 addresses three key issues:

  1. Required notification to the Department of Social Services (DSS): There is currently no centralized way to collect and house information about these facilities and no state agency has oversight. These facilities have been allowed to operate in darkness. HB 557/560 requires registration with the state and would also require DSS to maintain a list of all such residential care facilities.
  2. Ability to check and assure the safety of children in the unlicensed facilities by imposing minimal health and safety standards, including background checks. HB 557/560 also allows the Children’s Division to petition the court for an order directing a facility to present a child subject to an abuse and neglect investigation, and any other children living in the facility if they are suspected to be in danger, for an assessment of a child’s health, safety and well-being.
  3. Establishes a mechanism to file for injunctive relief to shut these facilities down if they fail to comply with the minimum notification requirements. Under HB 557/560 , failure to comply with the law—operating without notification—could ultimately result in the removal of children or a facility being shut down. This shall only be initiated if the facility is providing care without notification, failing to comply with minimum standards including background checks or an immediate health, safety or welfare concern for the children at the facility.

If signed by the governor, HB 557/560 will help to ensure Missouri is no longer a haven for people who harm children. Special thanks to Missouri KidsFirst champions Rudy Veit, Keri Ingle and Sen Bill White. We also thank the Kansas City Star's Laura Bauer and Judy Thomas for their extensive coverage of this issue, shining a light on a broken system. But most of all, we want to thank the courageous survivors who shared their experiences with lawmakers and urged them to take action. Their voices empowered lawmakers
Be sure to follow Missouri KidsFirst on Facebook and Twitter to receive updates on our legislative priorities. 
If you have questions about any bills, contact Jessica Seitz, Interim Executive Director at (573) 415-6228 or jessicaseitz@missourikidsfirst.org
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