The leader of a child welfare provider group says a growing number of Missouri kids should be in the mental health system, not in foster care. During a joint legislative committee hearing on Friday, Mary Chant with the Missouri Coalition of Children’s Agencies says the state’s foster care system is not built to handle mental health issues. Missouri has nearly 14,000 foster kids.
“When we have a child welfare response to a child that may not really be a child welfare situation, but it’s the only resource that the family can do to keep their family safe perhaps, but also to get the child the services they need, are going through the child welfare system,” she says.
Chant says the federal government has 12 programs that Missouri could get funding for.
“We need mental health resources, especially for these older youth, who they’re 17, 18, 19 years old. They’re not child welfare. They need mental health, they need developmental disability resources,” she says.
Chant says about 60% of kids are in the child welfare system for neglect, not physical or sexual abuse.
“There are other opportunities to engage earlier in the process and keep the child in the home safe with supportive services for the family, which saves both in financial costs but also just life costs,” she says.
Chant says Missouri is a few steps past doing “true prevention”. She says true prevention happens through better access to public health care, stable housing, employment and good transportation.
Rep. Hannah Kelly, R-Mountain Grove, chairs the Joint Committee on Child Abuse and Neglect. To view the panel, click here.
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