Senate Bill 25, set to take effect on August 28 of this year, was delivered to governor Matt Blunt on May 30, 2007.  The Bill affects various statutes pertaining to child protection, enforcement of child support, and termination of child support, The summary of the bill is as follows:

             CHILD ABUSE AND NEGLECT INVESTIGATIONS

This act prohibits the Missouri Children’s Division from closing a child abuse or neglect investigation if a child subject to the investigation dies during the course of the investigation, until such time as any separate investigation by the Division regarding the death is completed. (Section 210.145)

FOSTER PARENTS’ BILL OF RIGHTS

This act modifies several provisions regarding the rights of foster parents, and states that the children’s division and its contractors shall provide foster parents with written notification of the rights enumerated in this act at the time of initial licensure or renewal of licensure.

The act provides that the division and its contractors shall provide foster parents with regularly scheduled opportunities for preservice training and pertinent inservice training, as determined by the Missouri State Foster Care and Youth Advisory Board. The division and its contractors shall provide to foster and potential adoptive parents, prior to placement of children, a full disclosure of all medical, psychological, and psychiatric conditions of the child, information from previous placements that would indicate a propensity of the child to engage in violent or destructive behavior, information related to the child or child’s family including history of mental or physical illness, sexual abuse or perpetration, criminal background, fire-setting or other destructive behavior, substance abuse, or any other information that is pertinent to the care and needs of the child and protection of the foster or adoptive family. Knowingly providing false or misleading information in order to secure placement for a child shall be denoted in the caseworker’s file and shall be kept on record by the division. Foster parents shall be informed in a timely manner of all team meetings related to licensure status or children placed in their home. Foster parents shall follow all division and contractor procedures related to requesting and using respite care.

The act also provides that foster parents may share otherwise confidential information about children in their care with school personnel in order to secure safe and appropriate education for such children, and may share such information as is necessary for medical or psychiatric care of the child. Foster parents also must share any concerns that arise in the care of any child in their home with members of the child welfare team. Foster parents are also required to be flexible and cooperative with regard to family visits.

The act states that the division and its contractors shall provide foster parents with training that specifically addresses cultural needs of foster children, including but not limited to skin and hair care, and religious or cultural practices of the child’s biological family, and shall provide referrals to community resources for ongoing education and support. Foster parents shall use discipline methods which are consistent with division policy.

The act also provides that foster parents shall give two weeks notice when requesting removal of a child in their home, except in emergency situations. Also, if a child reenters the foster care system and cannot be placed in a relative home, such child’s former foster parents shall be given first consideration for placement of the child. If a foster child becomes free for adoption, foster parents shall inform the caseworker within 60 days of any inquiry as to whether they desire to pursue adoption, and if they choose not to do so, foster parents shall support the child’s placement in a permanent home by providing information on the history and care needs of the child, as well as accommodating transitional visitation. The act provides that foster parents shall be informed by the court no later than two weeks prior of all court hearings pertaining to a child in their care.

The act also provides that the division and its contractors shall provide access to an impartial grievance procedure to address issues relating to foster parent licensure, case management decisions, and service issues. (Section 210.566)

These provisions are substantially similar to SB 697 (2007).

CHILD SUPPORT ENFORCEMENT

This act modifies various provisions relating to child support enforcement. Under current law, the Child Support Enforcement Division may certify a person who owes a child support arrearage in excess of 5,000 dollars to the appropriate federal agency for denial, suspension or limitation of a passport to such person. This act lowers the arrearage threshold for passport denial certification from $5,000 to $2,500. This act also allows the division to open a corresponding child support case based on another state’s request for assistance.

Definitions for "parent," "dependent child," "obligee," "obligor," and "public assistance" are modified. Among such modifications are adding putative father and legal father into the definition of "parent" and adding the state into the definition of "obligee."

This act also allows the Child Support Enforcement Division to collect past due support owed to the state when a caretaker relative was on assistance or the child was in the custody of the state. The division is also allowed to establish an administrative order against any parent who does not already have an order against them. Under current law, the division can only establish an order if there is no order of support for the child. The division is also allowed to vacate an order which was improperly entered without jurisdiction or due process. Under current law, a court order is needed in order to avoid these orders. This act also specifies that an administrative modification can be made and must be approved by the court to become an enforceable order. If the order is not approved, the matter is then set for trial de novo.

This act also authorizes the Missouri Gaming Commission to direct gambling boats to intercept and pay over gambling winnings to individuals who owe past-due support or state debt, if winnings meet criteria for reporting to the Internal Revenue Service. (Section 454.390, 454.455, 454.460, 454.470, 454.496, 454.511, 511.350)

These provisions are substantially similar to SB 603 (2007) and HB 936 (2007).

CHILD SUPPORT MODIFICATION

This act allows a parent to stop paying child support when his or her child reaches 21 years of age or is at least 18 years of age and receives two failing grades in half or more of his or her courseload in any one semester when enrolled in at least 12 credit hours of higher education. (Section 452.340)

These provisions are substantially similar to HB 493 (2007).

The entire bill can be read here.