Bipartisan legislation that would regulate faith-based boarding schools like the now-defunct Circle of Hope Girls’ Ranch in southwest Missouri’s Humansville is heading to the governor’s desk, after receiving final legislative approval.
House Minority Leader Crystal Quade (D-Springfield) praises the bill sponsors, State Reps. Rudy Veit (R-Wardsville) and Keri Ingle (D-Lee’s Summit). Representative Ingle is a practicing licensed master social worker, and has worked in child welfare.
“I would say a big thank you to Representative Keri Ingle and and Rudy Veit for their work on that bill. Folks have been trying to fix that loophole for 20-plus years in the state of Missouri. It has been an ongoing problem,” Leader Quade says.
Current Missouri law doesn’t allow any regulation or oversight on residential care facilities for children, as long as the facilities declare themselves as religious.
The owners of the Circle of Hope ranch remain jailed without bond, after being charged with 102 felonies between them. Boyd and Stephanie Householder are scheduled to appear again in court on Thursday in Stockton, for a preliminary hearing. Judge James Nichols has ordered them held without bond, saying they are flight risks and that there is a “great potential” for witness tampering and intimidation.
Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt (R) announced the charges in March, saying it is one of the “most widespread cases of sexual, physical and mental abuse patterns against young girls in Missouri history.”
During Friday evening’s end-of-session press briefing, Leader Quade told Missourinet that she’s pleased with the criminal charges, and with House Bills 557 and 560 that are on the governor’s desk.
“Now we have these felony charges, hopefully folks are going to be held accountable. But almost more importantly, we’re going to be able to prevent this stuff from happening in the future,” says Quade.
As for Representative Ingle, she says the issue with faith-based boarding schools goes well beyond the Circle of Hope, and that this appears to be a systemic issue. NBC’s “Dateline” has profiled her legislative efforts on the bill this year.
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