The Missouri Coalition against Domestic and Sexual Violence’s Public Policy Director, Jennifer Carter Dochler, said such vital documents provide abusers with another way to control their victims. Withholding them can make it more difficult for a victim to leave.
Domestic violence shelters in Missouri have been covering the cost of birth certificates for clients who need them but those shelters have limited resources and the cost is becoming an issue for them.
Dinkins offered similar legislation in the 2019 session and it nearly passed, despite being introduced on the last day for filing bills. Lawmakers heard then that the $15 cost for a new copy of a birth certificate can be prohibitive to victims, who often have little or no money and need that very document in order to get a job. It is a further burden when they must pay that $15 for each child under their care.
Dinkins said what slowed the bill’s progress in 2019 its estimated cost to the state, which she said was grossly overestimated.
Dinkins said helping people escaping abuse get back into the work force would further offset any cost the bill could create for the state.
The 2019 bill passed out of the House and out of a Senate committee but was not voted on by the full Senate. Dinkins is optimistic that this year’s earlier start means the legislation has a better chance of reaching Governor Mike Parson (R).
Neely said some of the things HCB 11 would change in Missouri law are “quick” or “simple” fixes that could have significant impacts, especially in situations in which foster children have been described as, “falling through the cracks.”
HCB 11 includes language that would update background checks on foster families so that the Children’s Division would know immediately if a foster parent is charged with a crime that would disqualify him or her from being a foster parent. Current law only allows checks every two years.
HCB 11 would also 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. Currently children are screened every two years.
The original sponsor of that language is Representative Lauren Arthur (D-Kansas City), who said it would ensure that children in foster care receive more appropriate care, and the comprehensive screenings will in turn save the state money by catching medical conditions earlier and aiding in preventative care.
Current law prevents Missouri Social Services workers from investigating reports of abuse of Missouri children in foster care if the abuse doesn’t occur in Missouri, and prevents them from communicating with counterparts in other states about abuse or potential abuse. Christofanelli said his bill would remove those barriers and fix what he called a, “bureaucratic technicality.”
Some lawmakers expressed concerns with the portion of the bill because other states might release information about abuse claims – particularly unsubstantiated claims – that Missouri would not release. They expressed a desire to see that concern addressed before the bill could become law.
The House is prepared to vote on whether to send HCB 11 to the Senate. The bill is broadly supported, including by Columbia Democrat Martha Stevens, who sits on the Special Committee to Improve the Care and Well-Being of Young People.
– Allow a child who is homeless or in the custody of the Children’s Division, but the whereabouts of his or her immunization records is unknown, to be enrolled in school for up to 30 days while efforts are made to find those records, and if needed, another 30 days after that for the child to get caught up on immunizations (found in House Bill 2139 sponsored by Representative Lynn Morris, R-Nixa)
– Define when juvenile courts have jurisdiction over a child under 21, streamlining situations in which a child is in a safe situation but juvenile court involvement is interfering with the family (found in House Bill 1728 sponsored by Representative Bill Lant, R-Pineville)