Child abuse, neglect, child porn and sexual assault covered in new bill

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JEFFERSON CITY - A new house bill signed by Governor Nixon on Wednesday is looking clarify and change the way child abuse and neglect is addressed in the state of Missouri.

House Bill 1877, sponsored by Rep. David Wood, R-Versailles, consists of seven sections, all aimed at preventing abuse and neglect, as well as enhancing the lives of children in the state's foster care system.

  •  It adds several child pornography crimes to the list of crimes that require placement on the Child Abuse and Neglect Central Registry.
  • It requires courts that have found individuals responsible for child abuse and neglect to notify the local prosecuting attorney and the Children's Division of the individual's crimes so as to have them placed on the Central Registry.
  • It requires child abuse investigations of children 3 and under include an evaluation of the child by a Sexual Assault Forensic Examination-Child Abuse Resource and Education (SAFE-CARE) provider. If the SAFE-CARE provider makes a diagnosis of physical abuse, the provider must notify the Children's Division of their findings and immediately recommend to juvenile officers that the child be taken into protective custody.
  • Creates the Missouri Task Force on the Prevention of Infant Abuse and Neglect.
  • Requires Children's Division investigators to receive four hours of training on medical forensics from, or approved by, the SAFE-CARE Network every year.
  • Adopts the reasonable and prudent parent standard for foster care children, allowing foster parents to make reasonable decisions involving the children's participation in extracurricular, enrichment, cultural and social activities.
  • Provides greater clarity to the courts in determining when a person between the ages of 18 and 21 is allowed to return to foster care.

The deputy director of Missouri Kids First, a child abuse prevention and advocacy organization, said the bill represents just how hard the state is working in the fight against child abuse and neglect.

"This bill, the emphasis of it was really, our state agency recognizing a need to clean up and to make things better for the population they serve," Emily van Schenkhof said.

She said she thinks the measure will lead to meaningful improvements.

" I think it will have a significant impact on our state, " she said.

According to a report from the Missouri Department of Social Services, Children's Division, 102,100 children suffered abuse and/or neglect in 2014.

If child abuse is to end in Missouri, van Schenkhof said, the state will have to continue working hard, as it has with this bill.

"We have a lot to be proud of, but the work is not done, and we will continue to push until Missouri is the absolute best in the nation, but we are not there yet," van Schenkhof said.

The bill will go into effect August 28th.

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