Last year Governor Jay Nixon signed the bi-partisan House Bill 1877 which changed sections 210.110, 210.180, 211.031, and 211.036 RSMo to create more accountability for child sex offenders, create a task force to study the prevention of abuse and neglect in Missouri, and add language which allows foster parents the "prudent parent" legal standard in order to create some normalcy for children in foster care. Let me explain...
The bill added more crimes to the Child Abuse and Neglect Central Registry, including rape, sodomy, and promoting prostitution if the victim is under the age of 18, and sexual exploitation of minor, possession of child pornography, furnishing pornographic materials to minor, child used in sexual performance, and promoting sexual performance by a child. This means more sex crimes will result in the convicted criminal being placed on the registry, which then limits his or her freedom and anonymity. The bill also requires that potential victims of child abuse age three or younger are tended to by a SAFE CARE provider who specializes in child abuse. If they suspect abuse the law requires an immediate recommendation juvenile officers that the victim be taken into protective custody.
The task force created by the bill is called Missouri Task Force on the Prevention of Infant Abuse and Neglect, and they were ordered to submit their findings by December 31, 2016. I have not yet located those findings, but they will be used to create recommendations for child abuse and neglect prevention. This includes sharing of information between the hospitals and Children's Division and training opportunities for medical providers and Children's Division employees. The bill also designates requirements for case plans for foster children and sets provisions for the reentry of children in the custody of the children’s division, including allowing older youth who have "aged out" to have reentry up to the age of 21.
The Prudent Parenting portion of the bill is the most relevant to CASA. Essentially, the foster parents now have a lot more parenting rights than before, allowing foster children to attend social events and sleepovers for example without needing to obtain approval. This is with the intention of giving foster children a sense of normalcy, but as you can imagine there are potential problems with this. It adds one more thing for us to be on the lookout for. For example, are teenagers being allowed too much freedom? Are the foster parents taking the time to check out homes before allowing the foster child to spend the night? Of course most foster parents are good people and make wise decisions, but if we begin hearing stories from the CASA child that raise some red flags, this should be looked into. While the foster parents have more freedom, they are also accountable for anything that happens.
Here is the actual law, if you are interested in reading more. http://house.mo.gov/billtracking/bills161/billpdf/perf/HB1877P.PDF
I also attached the Normalcy Tip Sheet provided by Children's Division.
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us!
-Martienne Cotter, Volunteer Coordinator