(JEFFERSON CITY, MO) – Today, Governor Mike Parson announced the new Child Care Working Group that will work to ensure safe and quality care for Missouri children. Staff from the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS), Department of Social Services (DSS), Department of Public Safety (DPS), Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), and the Attorney General’s (AG) office will meet as a working group over the coming weeks to determine opportunities for improvement.
“The recent videos of what some Missouri children endure while in child care are horrific,” Governor Parson said. “Missouri parents who place their child into the hands of a child care provider expect their child will get safe, quality care while they work hard to support their family or further their education. I am committed to doing everything I can to protect our children. As a father, grandfather, and Governor, this must be a priority for us all.”
A video revealing a child abuse situation involving a former employee of Brighter Day Care and Preschool in St. Louis went viral last week. DHSS was alerted on February 5 and immediately began an investigation. On March 1, DHSS issued a revocation of the facility’s license and will closely monitor it throughout the potential appeal process. Arrests were made last week of two individuals involved in two separate alleged abuse investigations at Brighter Day Care and Preschool.
“DHSS licenses and regulates approximately 3,500 child care facilities which have the capacity to care for more than 175,000 children,” Dr. Randall Williams, Director, DHSS, said. “Annually, we conduct more than 1,500 complaint investigations, and about a quarter of these involve allegations of child abuse and neglect. We are committed to keeping all Missourians safe, especially those most vulnerable.”
In June 2018, Governor Parson signed House Bill 1350 which includes the requirement that every child care staff member receive a criminal background check and fingerprint screening before being allowed to be left alone with children.
“Comprehensive background checks are common sense measures, which help provide Missouri families more peace of mind regarding the individuals tasked with caring for their children,” Governor Parson said.
The State’s FY 2019 supplemental budget and FY 2020 budget recommendations include over $11 million in investment in quality and safety initiatives for child care. Additionally, DSS has proposed a plan to invest nearly $25 million to raise the quality of child care to ensure every Missouri family has access to high quality care at a place they feel safe leaving their children when they go to work or school.
“All parents, regardless of income, should have a safe place to care for their children when they go to work or school,” said Steve Corsi, Psy.D., Director, DSS. “At the Department of Social Services, we are committed to our mission of keeping children safe no matter where they are. We will continue to work closely with our partners in law enforcement and at the Department of Health to promote safety and find justice for children who are abused and neglected.”
The new Child Care Working Group will conduct a thorough review of current child care regulations and will report back to Governor Parson with recommendations on how to better ensure safe, quality child care by June 1, 2019.