Jim Neely's Capitol Report
Greetings, friends of the 8th Legislative District!
Missouri Makes Important Improvements to Foster Care System (SB 819)
As a result of the work of the committee I chaired this year, the Missouri legislature this year passed a number of provisions aimed at making life better for children in the state’s foster care system. Legislation that has been signed into law would help children get an education, proper medical care, and ease their transition out of state care.
At the beginning of the 2018 session, House Speaker Todd Richardson created the Special Committee to Improve the Care and Well-Being of Young People, which I chaired, to focus on foster care issues. That committee handled many of these provisions and oversaw combining several of them into a House Committee Bill. Many of the issues addressed in the bill were ultimately added to the Senate Bill that was then passed and signed into law.
Advocates for the bill say it makes some of the most important changes the state can implement for children in Missouri to “normalize” their lives relative to those of their peers. Some of the changes made in the bill were relatively easy fixes, but still important changes that can have a major impact on the lives of children and those who work with them.
One example is a provision that allows children in state care to get bank accounts in their on name after they turn 16. As the original sponsor of the provision said, “I think it really gives the foster children some freedom, it gives them some independence, some responsibility, and they don’t have to have a co-signer or anything like that where most would have to have, and I just think it’s a wonderful opportunity for them.”
Another provision will allow fees for birth, death, or marriage certificates to be waived if those documents are requested by certain state agencies on behalf of a child under juvenile court jurisdiction. The sponsor of the original legislation said the fees for those documents might be considered nominal to most people, but they can seem insurmountable to children trying to gain their independence. The sponsor said, “It’s hard for most citizens to realize that $10 or $15 to someone who doesn’t have a job and has no way to make income is a huge amount of money and a burden upon those citizens that truly are wards of the state that we should be looking out for and doing what we can to help them be successful.”
Also included in the bill are provisions to:
· Allow a child who is homeless or in state care and who has not received all his or her required immunizations to enroll in school, daycare, preschool, or nursery for up to 30 days while he or she begins getting caught up on those immunizations.
· Expand assessment and treatment services for children in foster care. It would require such services for all children in foster care – currently it is required only for those under the age of ten – and would require that those services be completed in accordance with the American Academy of Pediatrics’ periodicity schedule. Current law requires screenings of children in state custody every six months.
· Allow minors to contract for admission to a rape crisis center if qualified as specified in the act.
The bill also creates the “Social Innovation Grant Program.” It will create a state program to fund pilot projects that seek to address social issues such as families in generational child welfare, opioid-addicted pregnant women, or children with behavioral issues who are in residential treatment. Projects receiving grants should have the potential of being replicated to get the most out of state funds and address such concerns.
Yours in service,
Representative Jim Neely
Proudly Serving the 8th House District
Clinton, Caldwell, Ray, & Clay Counties
Missouri House of Representatives