Governor Nixon Signs Key Social Services Bills

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ST. LOUIS - Governor Jay Nixon signed two bills into law Tuesday that supporters say will help protect Missouri children. The governor signed House Bill 505 and Senate Bill 256. The two bills focus on the prevention of child abuse and neglect. Nixon held a public ceremony at St. Louis Children's Hospital Tuesday morning in front of key stakeholders.

The key measure closes a loophole in the state's mandatory child abuse reporting law. The legislation would require those reporting the cases to submit their suspicions directly to state officials in the Children's Division of the Department of Social Services.

Current law requires mandatory reporters, including doctors and teachers, who are suspicious of possible abuse or neglect, to report or ensure abuse is reported. That means mandatory reporters can pass the information to another person in their organization rather than directly to the department officials. 

Grandparents and Others on Watch (GrOW) is an advocacy group that has worked to push the bills forward during public hearings in Boone County and Jefferson City throughout 2012.

Dan Peek, Executive Director of GrOW, said that though these may seem like small steps, in comparison with other states and with what Missouri has done in the past, these changes are crucial in ensuring the immediate safety of children.

"Even if they don't have children in school right now, I think it's important for the community to know what is going on, because safe children make for a much safer community." Peek said.

Peek also wanted to emphasize the Missouri Task Force for the Prevention of Sexual Abuse of Children that held the public hearings around the state in order to draw attention to the necessity of these changes.

Another bill signed today, nicknamed Chloe's Law, would require infants be screened for critical congenital heart disease within 48 hours of birth or before they are discharged from the hospital. These mandatory screenings would begin in 2014.