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Greetings Friends of the 144th!
We certainly have had some wonderful weather lately. I have been trying to take time each day to go outside and take a walk and enjoy the beauty. I certainly hope we have a long fall and plenty more beautiful days before old man winter arrives. I have been busy this week meeting with constituents, school superintendents, county commissioners, and mayors throughout the district. I’ve been putting a lot of miles on the car trying to catch up with everyone who has issues they would like to discuss with me. I especially enjoyed my visit with Dennis Atkins, with DCAI, this week. For those of you who do not know Dennis, he is truly an amazing man. I’m not sure how he accomplishes all he does.
DHSS Reports Progress with Reduced Numbers of Children in State Custody
The House Committee on Children and Families met to receive testimony and discuss the work of the Department of Social Services (DSS) – Children’s Division. Leaders from the child welfare agency were pleased to report a reduction in the number of children in our state’s foster care system, which they said shows progress in building toward a system that is more proactive and preventative than reactionary.
Darrell Missey, the director of the Children’s Division, said that reducing the number of kids in state custody has been a goal for the department, and noted that in 2021, Missouri removed children at a rate nearly twice the national average, through reunification with families, adoptions, guardianships, or aging out of the system. In July, the number of kids in the state’s foster care system dipped below 13,000 for the first time in nearly a decade.
One of the key items of discussion was the Temporary Alternative Placement Agreements (TAPAs), which is a voluntary agreement between a family member and the Children’s Division that allows a child who has been determined to be unsafe to be temporarily placed out of the home with a relative to reduce or eliminate threats to the safety of children. The committee asked for more extensive, regularly updated public data on the matter to track these cases and better evaluate how TAPAs work and how to better serve and protect the children while being more accountable and transparent about the process. The state does not publicly post the numbers of kids in temporary care, and lawmakers said this gives an incomplete picture of the foster care system. DSS Director Robert Knodell said the department believes they have a capacity to provide the committee with ongoing numbers and that he would look into whether their system allows that data to be published.
Kelly Broniec Named Missouri Supreme Court Judge
Gov. Mike Parson announced Judge Kelly Broniec as his choice to fill an open seat on the Missouri Supreme Court. She will fill the vacancy left by Judge George W. Draper III, who retired this year.
Judge Broniec, 52, currently serves as chief judge of the Missouri’s Eastern District Court of Appeals in St. Louis. She was appointed to serve on the Eastern District Court of Appeals by Governor Parson in 2020. Before serving on the appellate bench, she served as an Associate Circuit Judge for Montgomery County for nearly 15 years after her appointment by Governor Matt Blunt in 2006. Prior to her appointment to the bench, Judge Broniec served as the Montgomery County Prosecuting Attorney from 1999 to 2006 and earned her Juris Doctor from the University of Missouri–Columbia School of Law, as well as her Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration from William Woods University.
This is the second time Governor Parson has filled a Supreme Court vacancy. In 2021, he appointed Judge Robin Ransom to an open seat. Later this year he will get a chance to replace Judge Patricia Breckenridge, who retires in October after turning 70, the court’s mandatory retirement age. Isn’t it amazing that you can no longer be a judge after age 70 but there is no age limit for congress or the president. I think this is an area we need to look into.
Judge Broniec’s swearing-in date has not yet been set; however, Missouri law requires her to be sworn in within 30 days of her appointment.
More Tools to Aid in Development for Hard of Hearing Children
HB 447 would bring Missouri in line with more than 20 other states in regards to education provisions and resources regarding deaf and hard of hearing children. The legislation, called “LEAD-K” or “language equality and acquisition for deaf kids” seeks to give parents of children living with hearing issues some much needed resources to address the tendencies which some deaf and hard of hearing children have with delayed language acquisition. Because there is no standard process for assessing children with hearing issues under the age of five, this often means that these children arrive in kindergarten not knowing as many words as they should at that age. By passing this bill, we can help provide more resources to parents, and ensure that these children are starting kindergarten with a foundational knowledge of either English or American Sign Language.
As always, please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions, concerns, or suggestions you might have. As your Representative, I am here to assist you however I can. I can be reached by email at Chris.Dinkins@house.mo.gov or by phone at 573-751-2112. Please do not contact me via social media. These messages are easy to overlook and may not be responded to in a timely manner.