Gov. Mike Parson signed House Bill 1414, a child protection bill, into law Monday, July 13. The bill includes key provisions to protect children, a release states, including:
• Ensuring youth who are homeless have access to a birth certificate for free, have access to health coverage through Medicaid and can seek mental health care.
• Clarifies that a child’s attendance in court hearings should take place when the judge and family support belief it’s in the best interest of the child.
• Creating temporary alternative placement agreements, a mechanism to provide services to parents and family placement to ensure safety of children not brought into foster care.
• Ensuring timely risk assessments within 72 hours of child abuse and neglect reports
• Ensuring foster parents have access, at the time of placement, to full medical records of a child placed with them.
• Fixing a background check duplication issue for child care providers and allowing for non-expiring child care licenses.
“Even in a pandemic-shortened legislative session, the legislature prioritized our most vulnerable children by passing this sweeping child protection bill,” said HB 1414 sponsor, Rep. Sheila Solon (R-St. Joseph). “This bill improves transparency, modernizes and expands best practices to ensure that the foster system remains focused on the best interests of each child.”
Advocates have had increasing concerns for children experiencing abuse and neglect, particularly with the various stay-at-home orders in place throughout the state and children having less access to mandated reporters, like teachers or child care providers.
“Missouri has not taken a significant look at our child welfare statutes in more than fifteen years,” said Rep. Mary Elizabeth Coleman (R-Arnold). “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.”
Many of the bill’s provisions also aim to help youth who are homeless in accessing vital health care and records.
"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 Representative Patricia Pike (R-Adrian).
The crafting of the legislation was bipartisan and passed the House 144-3 and the Senate 31-0.
“The passage of this bill is the work of passionate policymakers and it will positively impact children of all ages,” said Director of Policy & Advocacy for Kids Win Missouri Craig Stevenson. “We are grateful for the partnership of the legislature and thank Gov. Parson for signing this important legislation.”
With the signing, the bill’s provisions will take effect Aug. 28.