COCAN Policy Notes- December, 2014
The mission of COCAN is to promote advocacy, education and legislative action to improve the lives of children at risk of abuse and neglect. We strive to 1) provide networking opportunities for professionals and community organizations working with children and families, 2) promote awareness of public, private and community organizations and resources focusing on child abuse/neglect, and 3) foster coordinated legislative and administrative advocacy on behalf of abused and neglected children.
COCAN Legislative Activity
Our two opportunities with legislators for COFFEE and CONVERSATIONS went very well. The Board is very appreciative for those of you who were able to attend and thankful to Epworth Children and Family Services and Youth in Need for hosting these events. The legislators who attended were interested in learning about COCAN as a resource for their future endeavors around better protecting and serving families in our region. We are especially grateful to the legislators who came to the sessions. These included Sue Allen, Marsha Haefner, Jeanne Kirkton, Michelle Kratke, Margo McNeil, Sue Meredith, Matt Panik (for senator Eric Schmitt), and senator-elect, Jill Schupp. They shared their knowledge with us about issues pertinent to child abuse and neglect and were gracious in answering questions posed by our members. Most importantly, it appeared we connected with them personally and put COCAN on their radar as policy issues develop with respect to children’s needs for protection and treatment from child abuse and neglect.
COCAN’s legislative/advocacy committee members, along with the other board committees, have a retreat coming up in December. We invite the membership to contact us with your ideas for our consideration of issues we should focus on for the coming year. We value your input and thoughts!
Joint Committee on Child Abuse and Neglect
The Subcommittee on Child Abuse Reporting and Investigating, chaired by Bill Lant, this fall met with judges, juvenile officers and guardians ad litem. They have continued to look at improvements for MO Children’s Division, more effective recruitment and retention of workers, e.g., a career ladder. They have recently considered the best administrative fit for juvenile officers and how they relate to the Children’s Division. COCAN looks forward to the Subcommittee report due December 2014 and will keep the membership informed.
This amendment, which was recommended by the 2012 Report from the Task Force on the Prevention of Sexual Abuse of Children, passed in November. Previously the Missouri Supreme Court had ruled it unconstitutional to introduce evidence of similar crimes (against other victims) in child sexual abuse cases. This amendment permits judges the discretion to allow previous acts of sexual violence against minors to be disclosed in court. In most criminal cases, allowing evidence to be admitted in court which did not result in charges, would be considered to unfairly prejudice the case. The voters of Missouri determined, in these situations, prosecutors and law enforcement deserve the help they need for better prosecution of suspects.
The US Senate overwhelmingly approved reauthorization of the federal Child Care and Development Block Grant program in November. Nathan’s mother, who since the death of her son while napping in an illegal home day care in 2007, has been working for better MO and federal standards for day care centers, advocating through Child Care Aware of Missouri, reportedly was invited to the White House to witness the reauthorization on November 19, 2014. Although some part’s of MO’s Nathan’s law were passed by the MO legislature, others did not. Missouri increased fines for illegal day cares refusing to comply with law and provided more authority to shut down unlicensed day cares if a provider is being investigated for child abuse or neglect. But our state continues to allow home day care providers to care for as many unrelated children as they wish, even while watching unrelated children who are paying for care. Fortunately, the federal program strengthens federal standards and oversight of day cares getting federal subsidies. It requires monitoring programs and quality standards for any day care getting federal funds.