Missouri Governor Mike Parson briefs Capitol reporters in Jefferson City on July 7, 2021 (photo courtesy of the governor’s Flickr page)

Gov. Mike Parson’s office says there is no set timeframe to find a permanent director to lead the Missouri Department of Social Services.

Parson spokeswoman Kelli Jones tells Missourinet the governor and his administration are diligently working on finding a permanent director for Social Services. She says the search will continue until they find a candidate that is qualified and a good fit for the administration.

Robert Knodell, Deputy Chief of Staff to Parson, is serving as the interim director after the governor made several cabinet-level changes in early October. Former acting director, Jennifer Tidball, shifted back to her previous position as Chief Operating Officer of the department.

Robert Knodell (Photo courtesy of Gov. Parson’s Office)

The state agency has been criticized by some lawmakers and others for recent controversies involving missing foster children and reports of abuse among boarding school students, for instance.

The Office of the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says 978 Missouri foster care children were missing at some point in 2019. According to the Office’s report, Missouri rarely attempted to reduce children’s risk of going missing; it failed to protect foster kids who went missing; and did not use resources to assist in locating them.

The report says the Missouri Department of Social Services has taken some actions in response to the recommendations.

Several Missouri House Oversight Committee hearings have also been held to learn about the way the department functions in order to understand how reports of abuse are made and how they might fall through the cracks.

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