Missouri has a high level of open abuse and neglect cases.

As of August, the Children’s Division in Missouri’s Department of Social Services had more than 10,000 investigations with St. Louis having 6,124 and Kansas City having 3,636 cases, according to a report from St. Louis Public Radio.

Director Darrell Missey with the Children’s Division tells a committee that it’s because of staffing and capacity.

“We’ve got a bunch of new people coming in, but they’re all going to be new people,” Missey says. “They’re not all going to be able to carry a giant caseload at once. The caseloads are still enormously too big. So what we’ve done is we have concentrated the St. Louis folks closer into the center of the St. Louis region and having Jefferson County, St. Charles County take up the slack on the outside. Then, we’re having other counties come in to take up the slack for them.”

Director Missey says that there are never enough people to do this task.

“How big that number is, I think we need to do some calculations, but I think we will continually have these challenges so long as this entity is this size trying to deal with a job that is the size of the one that they have been tasked with,” he told a Children and Families Committee in Jefferson City on Tuesday.

Rep. Hannah Kelly, R-Mountain Grove who chairs that committee, says that there’s no scientific answer.

“I think that 90% of the problems that we deal with in this building are due to a breakdown of the family,” Kelly says. “Because of that, we unfortunately are always going to have legislative work to do. I think the question shouldn’t maybe be focused on why are the caseloads so high, but perhaps how do we ensure that the backlog isn’t so high.”

According to that same report, in St. Louis alone, an investigator could handle about 150 cases at one time, as opposed to the 15 cases, on average that they should have.

Missey calls upon lawmakers to have conversations with his department and forge a plan to provide what’s needed.

Copyright 2023, Missourinet.