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:
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.
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.
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