Battling child abuse and neglect in Missouri

Jaco Report
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(KTVI)-The Missouri Department Of Social Service’s Children’s Division is in charge of investigating accusations of child abuse and neglect. But, according to the Springfield News-Leader, the agency is short of money and people. So short that the newspaper says the head of the Children’s Division sent out a memo last summer ordering staff to stop any abuse or neglect investigations that take longer than 90 days. Critics say this means a lot of abused and neglected kids in Missouri will continue to be abused and neglected.

In Missouri and around the country, private agencies are taking up the slack as state child welfare agencies are short of personnel and money. But abuse and neglect allegations are increasing. In 2008, the Children’s Division in Missouri fielded 50,500 complaints of neglect and abuse. By 2012, those complaints had jumped to 62,500.

But the division faces almost constant threats of budget cuts. Its budget for training abuse and neglect investigators has been repeatedly cut and then partly restored. This yea, the budget for the Children’s Division remained stable. And while all that goes on, child abuse and neglect remains a huge problem. But many lawmakers are reluctant to give much money to agencies that investigate child abuse fearing that it amounts to government interference in the family.

So where does all this leave us as we try to protect kids from abuse and neglect? Dr. Melissa Jonson Reid with the Center for Violence and Inury Prevention at the George Brown School of Social Work at Washington University, talks it over with Charles Jaco.

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