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Bill Goes to Governor Nixon to Give DFS Workers More Time to File Investigation Reports

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DFS workers could get more time to investigate abuse/neglect DFS workers could get more time to investigate abuse/neglect
JOPLIN, MISSOURI - Legislation to give child abuse investigators more time to complete cases and file reports is on its way to Missouri Governor Jay Nixon.

House Bill 1092, sponsored by Southwest Missouri Representative Bill Lant is getting applause from child advocates.

Kathi Olson the executive director of the Children’s Center says, “The time issue is a huge factor cause these  are very serious allegations.”

The Children's Center is where victims of alleged abuse  are interviewed by Division of Family Services, law enforcement and others. It’s a multi- disciplinary approach. 

Olson says, “Sometimes the  previous deadline wouldn't allow the collection of evidence of everything that was needed.”

And former juvenile attorney Joe Hensley says, “It’s rare you can get that type of forensic  evidence in a sexual abuse case in a 30 day time frame.”

Under the bill sponsored by Lant, DFS workers who used to have just thirty days to investigate abuse or neglect  cases will have forty-five days.

And in cases of child sexual abuse up to one hundred and twenty days.

Hensley says its time consuming for workers after getting a hotline call, “They go and follow up with the  person who made hotline call. That person will give five or six names of other persons to corroborate this. Then that workers has to go talk to every single person, and the school, and pediatrician.”

Hensley says there’s a danger in rushing such cases and workers  making conclusions without all the evidence. “That , of course can lead to some bad results. If you have someone who gets a preponderance of evidence finding  because the workers didn't have time to get all the evidence together, that’s gonna haunt them for life. Alternatively, if they have to conclude a report as not having enough evidence and that person was a perpetrator, and they end up working for a school or daycare, we obviously don’t want that as a society either.”

Kids sometimes stay at Children’s Haven during investigations.

Executive Director Stephanie Thies says, “I think sometimes  families feel the investigation isn’t as thorough as it should have been.  So, this will definitely give investigators  time to make those decisions, really informed decisions about what’s the best interest of our kids.”

It’s not just the time issue that  Representative  Lant considers a concern.  He says  he’ll be looking at better pay fAll child abuse investigators whom all say are  overworked and underpaid.   

Hensley says, “This is a very difficult job. It’s a thankless job. And frankly, they don’t get paid enough for what they do. By the time the workers get to  the experience level to where they can process these reports faster,  they're already  burned out.  These are workers who see the worst of the human condition on a daily basis.”

 Representative Lant says turnover among DFS  workers is at fifty-four percent. He plans to address pay and salary inequities at a June meeting.
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