FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 19, 2021
House Bill 557 improves safety of children and youth
JEFFERSON CITY, MO – Last week, Governor Mike Parson signed into law House Bill (HB) 557 to help protect children at licensed and license-exempt residential care facilities and child placing agencies. A license-exempt residential care facility includes any agency that provides 24-hour care to children and is exempt from licensure, such as religious-based institutions, institutions run by the state or county, educational programs where children stay overnight, or entities offering a sleep-away camp to children.
“We must always do everything in our power to keep Missouri children safe,” Governor Parson said. “This bill means a legal pathway to check on the safety and well-being of a child in a licensed-exempt residential facility and ensures all individuals around children in any residential facility or agency go through a background screening.”
Individuals within the facility/agency who have contact with children must provide fingerprints for state and federal background screening through the Missouri State Highway Patrol this year and every five years, thereafter and register on the Family Care Safety Registry to comply with the law. The Department of Social Services (DSS) will post more information online, as it becomes available, regarding the requirement for new background screenings for all individuals that are currently with a licensed residential care facility or child placing agency with a current background screening process.
DSS will host a virtual informational meeting on compliance with the new law from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m., Thursday, August 5. To participate, click on “Join Webex Meeting” and follow instructions, providing the meeting number (access code): 177 802 6321 and meeting password: HB557. Visit the DSS website for more information.House Bill 557 specifies DSS can petition a court for an order for a licensed-exempt residential care facility to present a child who is the alleged victim of child abuse or neglect to a Children’s
Division worker for an assessment of the child’s health, safety, and well-being. The legislation adds that in addition to petitioning the juvenile officer for removal of a child, DSS can also make a referral to the Attorney General. The bill also specifies fines and misdemeanor charges for noncompliance with background screenings and access or removal of an alleged victim.
The newly signed bill also requires license-exempt residential care facilities to notify DSS of their facility and provide documentation to prove their facility meets specific safety requirements. Notifications and supporting documentation must be sent to the Department to be incompliance with the new law; DSS will post more information as it becomes available.The Department of Social Services strongly encourages anyone who suspects child abuse or neglect to call the toll-free hotline at 1-800-392-3738. The Missouri Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline is answered 24-hours a day, every day, all year round. Visit dss.mo.gov for more information and follow DSS on Facebook and Twitter.
The mission of the Department of Social Services is to empower Missourians to live safe, healthy, and productive lives.