Progress is being made in the Missouri Office of Children’s Division. When Darrell Missey became director of the division, the number of kids in foster care was over 14,200, more than double the national average on a per capita basis.

“The number today that sort of shows you through August 23 and this goes back to 2018 and it shows the trend line that has gone way down in the last year and a half,” Missey said. “The number that we had on Monday was 12,752. So, it’s lower even then what’s on this chart right now.”

Rob Knodell, the director of the Missouri Department of Social Services attributes that improvement to measures that prevent families from being torn apart.

“This reduction and the trajectory toward a healthier system can be attributed to an increased focus on upstream prevention, children reaching permanency, improved staffing trends in many areas, and better collaboration with our court system,” he said. “Response times are decreasing in the number of overdue reports is declining. The unprecedented investments that this general assembly and Governor Parson made are making a difference.”

That number, although a marked improvement, still makes it one of the highest rates in the country. Knodell said more work needs to be done.

“Staffing and especially retention, although it is improving, remains a real challenge for us,” Knodell stated. “Caseloads in many areas remain too high making it difficult to implement best practices and practice improvements in ways that are uplifting and inclusive rather than coercive. We need more foster families. I can’t say that enough.”

Missey adds that when a child comes in, the goal is almost always reunification.

“We accomplish that only about half the time,” according to Missey. “I do have numbers available as to what our exits were last year and it’s about 50% reunification and then the other half goes to the other things that we have, which are guardianships or adoptions, or they end up aging out.”

So far investments were used from the General Assembly to boost employment numbers, reduce individual caseload, and improve collaboration with the state’s court system. Missouri also needs more foster families, especially for older youth or sibling groups in hopes of finding a safe, permanent home.

Copyright 2023, Missourinet.