Child welfare advocates are worried about how the state Supreme Court will rule on two cases related to the time it takes to investigate reports of child abuse and neglect.
Two lower courts have agreed with two women who say child welfare investigators didn’t tell them by the statutory deadline the outcome of investigations that led to their names being put on the registry of child abuse and neglect. Caseworkers have 30 days to investigate allegations and 90 days to tell the accused what they find.
Missouri Kids First Deputy Director Emily Van Schenkhof says the cases before the Supreme Court could be causing investigators to be told to rush cases.
“Saying that (caseworkers) have to have a letter out to the person … that you have to have this case decided in a certain timeframe … it’s just not possible in all cases,” says Van Schenkhof. “We’re forcing people to make decisions when they don’t have all of the facts and we want people to have quality investigations, not just simply, ‘We’ve got to meet this timeframe and if we don’t, we lose jurisdiction.'”
She worries that cases older than 90 days will be dropped.
“So where does this leave these children?” asks Van Schenkhof. “We’re dropping these children and a lot of times in very complex cases. Law enforcement doesn’t have these sort of artificial timeframes.”
The Court heard arguments in those cases December 3. Decisions could come at any time.
Representative Bill Lant (R-Pineville) has filed a bill that would allow 30 business days for investigations.