August 28, 2014

Efficiency Committee questions state handling of child abuse cases

A House Committee on government efficiency is looking into how the Department of Social Services handles child abuse cases.

The House Interim Committee on Improving Government Responsiveness and Efficiency begins a two-day hearing at the Capitol.  (Photos courtesy: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

The House Interim Committee on Improving Government Responsiveness and Efficiency begins a two-day hearing at the Capitol. (Photos courtesy: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

The Interm Committee on Improving Government Responsiveness and Efficiency heard from Springfield law enforcement officer Tim Bruce, who says he has been trying for years to get the Division of Family Services to investigate claims three of his grandchildren are being sexually abused.

“It was not confirmed through an investigation and through a CAC interview that my oldest grandson was, in fact, sexually molested. All of this while DFS had continually told me that there was no concern, there were no issues, and the mother to this day still has those children in her care.”

Acting Department of Social Services Director Brian Kinkade says his agency’s top priority is child safety. He says it responds to 50-60 thousand abuse hotline calls a year.

“I would contend that in the vast majority of those cases, our division, the law enforcement, our doctors, our juvenile courts are taking the actions to keep our children safe.”

Several lawmakers expressed concern at Bruce’s story and Kinkade later met with him privately.

Chairwoman Sue Allen (R-Town and Country) also expressed interest in how the Department handles information on abuse cases.

The case of 4-year-old Lucas Webb of Holt gained attention when the Department refused to release information to the Kansas City Star for months. Allen asked Kinkade about the handling of that situation.

Kinkade tells her, “We are always concerned about taking an action that would jeopardize the prosecution of someone who has hurt or murdered a child, so our immediate action is always going to exercise extreme caution because if we were to do something to release information that would somehow jeopardize a situation like that, then you can’t pull that back, you can’t correct it, you can’t fix it.”

The Committee is also discussing eligibility for food stamps and temporary benefits for needy families. Its hearing continues today.