State representative proposes legislation to place children in state custody with relatives

Representative Dave Griffith speaks with Alysa Jackson (left) and Sarah Bashore (right) with the Central Missouri Foster Care and Adoption Association.

Photo courtesy of: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications

One Missouri House member wants the state to work harder to find family members that can care for children taken into state custody, as opposed to placing them with strangers in foster care.

Jefferson City Representative Dave Griffith is proposing legislation that would require the Children’s Division to make “diligent searches” for biological parents when a child is taken into state custody.  In cases of emergency placements, the Division would look for grandparents.  If that doesn’t work, the Division must look for other relatives within 30 days.

Griffith says he’s heard stories about families being separated.

“I have a number of my constituents that have reached out to me with their own personal stories and own personal nightmares that they are dealing with when their children are taken from them and trying to get their children back and having their children separated and not being able to go to relatives, or going to wrong relatives, and it being injurious to their future, and, many of them, to their health.” 

Griffith says he thinks the Children’s Division can do more to avoid those scenarios.

“We want to go 50 deep if we have to, to try to find somebody that is going to be a good match for that child, that is going to be able to provide that child with a safe and healthy place to live.” 

The bill went before the House Committee on Emerging Issues, where some lawmakers asked if this would place an extra burden on underpaid, overworked employees.  Griffith said there are resources that are available that aren’t being fully utilized.

Representatives from the Central Missouri Foster Care and Adoption Association said their agency helped find family members for 34 children during the last two quarters of the last fiscal year.  She says the agency could help even more children, but the Children’s Division hasn’t been asking.

The committee has not yet voted on the bill.