Missouri lawmakers recommend $5 million more to children's divis - KMOV.com

Missouri lawmakers recommend $5 million more to children's division

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By Elizabeth Eisele By Elizabeth Eisele

(KMOV) -- As reports of child abuse continue to rise in the state of Missouri, the legislature along with Governor Jay Nixon have recommended $5.1 million in additional funding for the Children’s Division of the Department of Social Services.

The funding will help relieve overloaded case workers and provide better response to claims of child abuse and neglect, according to Tim Decker, director of the Children’s Division.

A spokesperson with the Children’s Division tells News Four the number of children in foster care has increased 4.9 percent from an average of 10,727 in the 2012 fiscal year, to an average of 11,257 in the 2013 fiscal year.

Reports to the Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline have increased by 6.4% in that time.

The Children’s Division has added 23 staff members and expanded contracts for foster care management as a result of the increased case load. The additional funding will go toward training the staff and retention efforts within the department.

“We are very grateful for the budget increases recommended by the Governor and supported by the House and Senate.  These investments focus on important strategic priorities such as training and support for frontline workers, technology, and increased competency, continuity, and performance of our workforce,” Decker said.

DSS Communications Director Rebecca Woelfel says the money will be used to buy iPads for the caseworkers so they can record information into an automated system from the field, reducing the administrative burden.

For the fiscal year 2015, the budget includes $1.5 million to fund this effort.

Almost $350,000 will go toward training for Children’s Division staff. This includes secondary trauma training to help case workers cope with the tragedies they encounter. The division will also train case workers to better interview alleged perpetrators and victims. According to Woelfel, the training will strengthen investigations and collaboration among law enforcement and prosecutors.

The largest portion of the funds, $2.3 million, will be used to implement strategies to recruit and retain staff within the Children’s Division. To reduce turnover, the division will offer opportunities for advancement within the department and recruit qualified applicants. The funding will not create new positions but it does implement a promotional ladder with increased pay for certain qualified staff members, Woelfel said.

“We appreciate the broad-based support from our leaders and look forward to working with many collaborative partners on this historic opportunity to improve our state’s response to child abuse and neglect and ensure children have permanent loving families and the opportunity for a safe and prosperous life,” said Decker.

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