A St. Joseph state representative wants to reduce the stress foster children experience when forced to attend court hearings. Rep. Shelia Solon is chair of the House Children and Families Committee. She says judges have told her the first year in foster care is critical for children and some state laws add to their stress.

Rep. Sheila Solon and Gov. Mike Parson (Photo courtesy of KFEQ in St. Joseph)

“A few years back, the legislature passed legislation that a lot of other states had done which was the Foster Child Empowerment Act,” Solon says. “It had a lot of really great legislation in it, but something that was in the bill was that kids were presumed to be in court for all hearings and it’s been really tough on the kids.”

Solon will sponsor a bill in the upcoming legislative session which would not require foster children to attend all court hearings.

“It’s stressful and think about these kids who have to have these court dates that they’re forced to go to and the anxiety and, again, the burden falls on the foster parents, because they have to take off from their jobs to take these kids to court,” Solon says. “So, this bill is going to just change it from the presumption that they should be in court to if it’s necessary, if a judge feels that they need their input.”

Solon adds Missouri needs to have better guidelines on when a child should be removed from their home. She says Missouri could learn from other states in how they handle taking children from the home.

“Forty other states do this and we don’t and it is a risk assessment chart,” Solon says. “Law enforcement uses this all the time when they’re dealing with domestic violence and child abuse victims and it’s kind of a list of if you see these things then the child needs to be removed or they need to be referred to a battered shelter.”

Solon says Missouri has many good social workers, but many are inexperienced and need solid guidelines on how to carry out their duties.

By Brent Martin of Missourinet affiliate KFEQ in St. Joseph