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House speaker calls on Missouri governor to open records on recent child tragedies

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posted on Apr, 11 2013 @ 09:01 AM
Read more here:
(I added the last four words onto the title for clarity's sake. Here's the first sentence):

Gov. Jay Nixon should order the release of records in recent child tragedies or expect lawmakers to take action, the Missouri House speaker said Wednesday.

And here's why:

Republican Rep. Tim Jones of Eureka called for the state’s child welfare system to return to its practice of opening records after children have died or been seriously injured by abuse or neglect. The only way for the system to improve, and be safer for children, he said, is for the public to be able to scrutinize actions made in tragic cases. That was the intent of a disclosure law on the books for more than a decade

Read more here:

The Missouri DSS (aka DFS) has a long history and besmirched reputation of overloaded case workers, inappropriate interventions, and faulty oversight. I won't go into my personal anecdotes in dealing with them, both as a graduate school cohort and later as an active worker in Kansas City, Missouri's urban core.

Those stories were not unique, and the Kansas City, Missouri Community Mental Health Center where I worked tried to avoid getting DFS (Dept of Family Services, known in other areas as Child Protection Services) involved at all; their outcomes and strategies were abysmal. More than once our Clinical Director confronted them with protests, to no avail. It should have been that we cooperated with each other and worked together to stop child maltreatment and neglect. It didn't work like that, however.

After three years of freely releasing information nearly every time the agency was asked, officials for the past nine months have denied requests for documents. This change started after the rescue of a malnourished and dehydrated Kansas City girl known as LP from a locked closet in late June. She had been placed under state supervision in 2006 and returned to her mother the next year.

“It is deeply troubling that the Missouri Department of Social Services has made a pronounced shift away from accountability and openness when it comes to cases dealing with the death or near-death of innocent Missouri children,” Jones wrote in an email to The Kansas City Star. “My predecessors in the legislature took swift action more than a decade ago to improve our state law and end the secretive ways that had existed within the department.

Yes, it is deeply, deeply troubling. It was during the time that I was working and active in the community that these changes by the legislature had taken place. (They were way overdue at the time).

Now, the child welfare agency has again started denying access to records.

As the article points out, when children die or are rescued near death, such as little LP in the text above, or the two little boys who died of neglect and starvation (which happened in 2000 and prompted the 'changes' mentioned above), the public and court system and legislature needs to have access and scrutinize the records in order to improve the system.

Personally, I would think that the case workers who were assigned these children's cases should to some degree be held accountable, even though I understand that they are mostly overloaded and the final decisions on interventions are not theirs. In fact, I left that career because of failure on the part of leadership to correct problems in the facilities that violated client's rights to privacy, as well as mismanagement of grant funds.

The Mental Health system is broken. Many on ATS already mistrust it, and for a while I was quite defensive about that, as I practiced as soundly and ethically as I could, and was the one in our office who pointed out the issues in the first place. But now I see it more clearly (hindsight, eh?) and I am appalled at how this country has failed to address the closure of the State Mental Health Facilities by the government 20 years ago.

Releasing the custodial wards - with no follow-up care, or medication - to "cut spending", and expecting the communities to absorb their once institutionalized citizens without proper infrastructure, training, or resources for those communities was a colossal mistake.

I first became aware of it in the mid 90s when I worked as a para-educator in an "Alternative School" in Kansas - the place they take the kids on the short bus...the ones who suffer from "Severe Emotional and Behavioral Disorders."

Later, in the urban core of KC, Missouri, I had access to the workings of the Mental Health Court diversion programs that attempted to provide supervision and diversion rather than incarceration for the adult mentally ill, nearly all of whom were homeless.

What we have now - a horrible problem with homeless people who already had mental illnesses and who are not taking their meds, and who only get attention when they do something criminal and are arrested - is largely due to that stupid government decision.

Recently, Kansas City, Missouri (NOT Kansas) officials discovered a network of tunnels and shelters in the East Bottoms area (the river bottoms, just south of the Missouri river and north of the downtown area): Here is an ATS thread from the Survival forum - please note the title of the thread says "Kansas" police - it was NOT Kansas police. It was Missouri. There is a big difference. I live in KC, KS, but worked in KC, MO and I was made acutely aware of the disparities between their social service structures, school systems, and mental health facilities operations and management.

I am hopeful that this sort of nonsense is finally REALLY addressed. DFS should not be able to withhold records when a child dies or nearly so due to criminal neglect. It is their job to intervene and protect those kids. When they fail, either by placing the kids back with unfit parents, or not intervening properly when they should (for example giving a "heads-up" to parents already being monitored when a surprise inspection is planned), they are culpable and MUST be accountable.


edit on 11-4-2013 by wildtimes because: (no reason given)

posted on Apr, 11 2013 @ 09:17 AM
I'm not sure Jay Nixon is our hope here. The man won't even schedule a face meeting with the Lt. Governor. it's maddening because I voted for Nixon (A Democrat) based on his solid handling of our state's finances compared to Blunt before him and states like Illinois next door to look at for examples of how bad it CAN be. I also voted for our Lt Governor (Republican) with the sincere hope that the conflicting parties would bring some check/balance to the more ignorant ideas either of them come up with.

So much for that idea..... I agree with everything you're saying about DFS though. It's no better in the Springfield region except to say they may not be quite as overworked. Then again, perhaps they are? My one contact with them from someone reporting us for spanking our child (err..some people need to understand, corporal punishment is not considered a problem or bad thing by law here) was okay. Of course I never lost sight of the fact I was dealing with a person who ultimately carried more actual authority and power than a cop in many ways.

The least they should be forced to do is maintain open records on the cases that go horribly wrong.

posted on Apr, 11 2013 @ 09:23 AM
reply to post by Wrabbit2000

Thanks, Wrabbit! I don't know about Springfield, but our member Xcathdra is a LEO, I believe in the Springfield area and could probably speak a bit to their workloads.
(X? Are you still around?)

We are having a problem with the governor in Kansas as well. As so many other states are. WTH is going on here??!!

Do you think it's possible that the governors are just as culpable as Congress for what is going on? I am thunderstruck at how things are escalating out of control all over this nation. Perhaps State legislatures need to be scrutinized just as much as the Capitol Hill corruption. Scary.

posted on Apr, 11 2013 @ 09:43 AM
reply to post by wildtimes

I'd feel remiss not to give credit to another member who has put a great deal of work into keeping track of Mo State Government affairs.

Sad_eyed_lady has invested and continues (as I understand it) to invest a good deal of time into keeping up on the DOR violating our own state laws on another issue, linked on her name there. She's also given more detail about the animosity that apparently exists between Nixon and Kinder. Hope this helps too, and thanks so much for the update. It's hard to keep up with all that's happening, even close to home sometimes.

posted on Apr, 11 2013 @ 06:01 PM
reply to post by wildtimes
I have an acquaintance that is a case worker for CPS in Texas. She has told me that in most cases unless there is proof of extremely severe abuse or neglect they try every way possible to keep the families together as there aren't enough state facilities or foster parents to adequately care for them and there is as good of a chance of abuse or neglect in state care. She and many others work well into the night, including their off hours, to make as many home checks as they can as they are extremely overloaded with no relief in sight. She cries a lot.

posted on Apr, 11 2013 @ 07:59 PM
reply to post by littled16

unless there is proof of extremely severe abuse or neglect they try every way possible to keep the families together as there aren't enough state facilities or foster parents to adequately care for them and there is as good of a chance of abuse or neglect in state care.

And she is correct. Child protection services try everything to keep families together- intervention is first on the parents/family. The problem is when CPS neglects what is really going on, or alerts the parents when the kid/s report continuing drug abuse/sales, etc. and a surprise visit is about to take place.

Taking kids from the parents is the absolute last resort, and not done until it's proven that the parents are not improving enough to fix the systemic problems.

It takes months and months of case-work, ongoing and regular counselling for the parents, and follow-up visits to monitor problems.......... the parents don't lose parental rights until the situation is completely irreconcilable. But, if after all that, the family shows improvement in functioning and parenting skills, the kids are left with the parents. And sometimes that's when it all goes haywire.

In my experience, only the worst of the worst parents actually lose parental rights. Everything known as 'best practice' is done to keep the family intact. No one wants to take kids away from their parents. And even if they have to, the first option is to place the kids with relatives (aunts/uncles, grandparents, cousins, whoever).....

Children are NOT taken away from families unless CPS has concluded that intervention is not working, and there is nowhere else the child can be temporarily (or permanently) placed that is adequate.

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