The state House has passed a bill that would extend from 30 days to 30 business days the length of time investigators with the state Children’s Division have to conduct an investigation into child abuse allegations.
Supporters, including the bill’s sponsor Representative Bill Lant (R-Pineville), say the legislation is a positive step, but perhaps not the final solution to the problem they hope to address.
The issue was raised by two cases now awaiting a ruling by the Missouri Supreme Court filed by two women who say they weren’t told a statutory deadline the outcomes of investigations into abuse allegations against them.
Caseworkers have 30 days to investigate allegations and 90 days to tell the accused what they find.
Deputy Director of Missouri Kids First Emily Van Schenkhof says she and other child advocates would like to get away from arbitrary timeframes, but she understands the legislature put them in place for a reason.
“The General Assembly is not interested in giving Children’s Division a carte blanche to say, ‘You can conclude these investigations whenever you’d like to,'” says Van Schenkhof, “because we know that’s also not in children’s best interest.”
She says there is an effort to strike a balance between the two extremes.
“We’re looking to perhaps create … a very narrowly taylored good cause exception for these timeframes,” Van Schenkhof tells Missourinet.
She thinks those involved in the discussion are close to arriving at a compromise. She hopes it will be ready before the issue comes up in a Senate committee.
Hear the interview with Emily Van Schenkhof: