DSS Acting Director draws heat from state lawmakers over abuse inside Christian reform schools

State Department of Social Services (DSS) Acting Director Jennifer Tidball briefs Capitol reporters in Jefferson City on June 16, 2020.

Photo courtesy of the governor’s Flickr page

A group of Missouri lawmakers grill the Missouri Department of Social Services for a second time about allegations of abuse inside Christian reform schools.

The Kansas City Star reports the department’s director Jennifer Tidball testified before the House Special Committee on Government Oversight on Wednesday, during a hearing that lasted nearly four hours.

During the hearing, lawmakers said they believe social workers have been afraid to approach lawmakers with issues inside the homes, out of fear of retaliation.  Lawmakers say they want to know when DSS learned of the allegations and why the agency did nothing to stop it.  They also want to know why Tidball didn’t approach the legislature, requesting a change in state law that would give her agency oversight of these homes. 

Tidball testified she was unaware of the abuse at Circle of Hope until the Star broke the story last year.  The facility has since been shut down and the owners are facing more than 100 felony charges of abuse.  Tidball also assured lawmakers that she’ll make it clear to social workers that although they can’t discuss particular cases because of confidentiality, they are free to bring concerns to the General Assembly.

Next Wednesday, the same House committee will hear public testimony from those who attended these schools.