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Budget Agreement Gives $5.1M Boost for Mo. Children’s Division

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- The House-Senate budget conference committee approved a $5.1 million budget boost for the Children’s Division within the Missouri Department of Social Services, which was part of Gov. Jay Nixon's budget proposal.
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- The House-Senate budget conference committee approved a $5.1 million budget boost for the Children’s Division within the Missouri Department of Social Services, which was part of Gov. Jay Nixon's budget proposal.

It had passed through the House and after some wrangling in the Senate, most of the money was allocated.

The money is aimed at recruiting and retaining child abuse investigators, increasing salaries and reducing caseloads to stop the high turnover rate among workers. It will provide more training and also fund technology upgrades to arm investigators with tablet computers and wireless connectivity -- that way they can respond and file reports more quickly.

"Our children division workers are amazing but they need help," child advocate Deb Fusek, the Interim Director of the Family Matters Resource Center in Springfield, said. "Many of the caseworkers are doing the job of two people."

Nixon said the money will provide extra help in highly stressed areas, like Springfield, which sees bigger numbers of child abuse and foster care cases than Kansas City and St. Louis.

"These are hard jobs," Nixon said in a Monday interview with KOLR 10. "We need to make sure we're doing what we can so they can move forward."

An Annie E. Casey foundation survey, the Cost Of Doing Nothing, finds federal money to support state child welfare has decreased dramatically over the years. It noted a 26 percent drop between 2002 and 2012, making state money all-the-more important.

"Having that low number of foster parents in proportion to children In care makes the job of children division workers more difficult," Fusek said. 

The legislature must get its entire budget proposal to Nixon by Friday.

"Let's make sure we are providing both protection safeguard and technology in these areas where there's both a great deal of stress and a great deal of need," Nixon said.
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