HS HCS SS#2 SCS SB 757 & 602 -- PROTECTION OF CHILDREN

This bill revises various child protection laws and criminal provisions targeting children as victims. In its main provisions, the bill:

(1) Adds Jefferson and Pettis counties to the list of counties for which the Department of Social Services will provide funding for a child assessment center (Section 210.001, RSMo);

(2) Repeals several provisions regarding the child protection system which currently set forth specific actions that must be performed by the Division of Family Services and replaces those provisions with several broadly described goals, including establishing and maintaining an information system and providing protective or preventive services (Section 210.109);

(3) Requires the medical examiner or coroner to notify the division immediately in the case of a child's death that was not the result of natural causes. Currently, such notification must be done "in a timely manner" (Section 210.115);

(4) Requires the division to contact law enforcement immediately upon receipt of a report (including hotline calls) of suspected child abuse or neglect when the report warrants an investigation -- as opposed to a mere family assessment -- in accordance with division protocols. Current law does not require that the notification of law enforcement be immediate. In addition, the bill requires local law enforcement officials to respond to a division office's request for assistance in an investigation within 24 hours. Currently, they must respond "in a reasonable time" (Section 210.145);

(5) Adds the crimes of possession of child pornography and furnishing child pornography to a minor to the list of crimes for which the local office of the division must relay reports to local law enforcement (Section 210.145);

(6) Requires the Director of the Division of Family Services to appoint a chief investigator for each local division office, who will direct the division's response to any case involving a second or subsequent incident of child abuse. The chief investigator's duties will include verifying that direct observation of the child by the division has occurred and that the appropriate school district personnel have been informed of the investigation (Section 210.145);

(7) Requires the division to notify law enforcement prior to terminating any division investigation (Section 210.145);

(8) Requires the division to fully document, upon the closing of a case, the outcome of any family assessment, any services provided, and the removal of any risk to the child (Section 210.145);

(9) Clarifies that the release of findings or information about a case to the mandated reporter is at the discretion of the Director of the Department of Social Services, based upon a review of the mandated reporter's ability to assist in protecting the child or other children within the immediate family (Section 210.145);

(10) Repeals the provision permitting a person who is the subject of a report for which there is insufficient evidence of abuse or neglect to demand that the record of the case be destroyed after 2 years (Section 210.150);

(11) Clarifies that the Director of the Department of Social Services has discretion to release information regarding any case resulting in a child fatality or near fatality, based upon the potential harm to other children within the family (Section 210.150);

(12) Extends from 5 to 10 years the period for which the division must retain identifying information in mandated reporter cases where the division found insufficient evidence of abuse or neglect. In such cases reported by someone other than a mandated reporter, records must be kept for 2 years (Section 210.152);

(13) Requires the local child fatality review panel to review all deaths of children under the age of 18 that meet guidelines of the Department of Social Services and gives the panel the discretion to review any child death reported to it by the medical examiner or coroner. Final reports issued by the review panel will be public records (Section 210.192);

(14) Allows the state child fatality review panel to meet more often than currently required (biannually) and adds juvenile officers and the chairmen of the local child fatality review panels to the list of persons to whom the State Technical Assistance Team is required to submit findings and recommendations (Section 210.195);

(15) Allows minors age 16 or 17 to enter into contracts for housing, employment, medical care, establishing a bank account, and admission to a domestic violence shelter when the minor is homeless, self-supporting, and has received permission from a parent to live independently (Section 431.056);

(16) Requires that placement hearings for children who are the subject of termination of parental rights proceedings or adoption proceedings be given priority over all other civil litigation except Division of Family Services' child protection cases. In appeals of child placement decisions, the trial transcript must be provided to the appellate court within 30 days of filing the appeal, only one extension may be granted to either party, and the appellate court must issue a ruling within 30 days of oral arguments (Section 453.011);

(17) Permits a prior inconsistent statement of any witness testifying in any criminal trial to be received as substantive evidence. Currently, this provision is limited to prosecutions for offenses against the person, sexual offenses, or offenses against the family (Section 491.074);

(18) Revises several definitions within the criminal code related to computer crimes (Section 556.063);

(19) Adds defendants convicted of class A felony abuse of a child to the list of defendants to whom a court may not grant probation (Section 559.115);

(20) Amends the crime of child molestation in the first degree by increasing the victim's age from 12 to 14 years; increasing the penalty from a C felony to a B felony; and increasing the penalty for repeat and serious offenders from a B felony to an A felony (Section 566.067);

(21) Creates the crime of leaving a child unattended in a motor vehicle. The crime occurs when a person leaves a child 10 years of age or younger in a vehicle which then causes injury to another person. The crime is a class A misdemeanor when the victim suffers physical injury, and a class C felony if the injury is fatal (Section 568.052);

(22) Creates the crime of genital mutilation. The crime occurs when a person mutilates the genitalia of a female under the age of 17. A parent or guardian who consents to the mutilation is also guilty of the offense. The crime is a class B felony (Section 568.065);

(23) Requires computer providers, installers or repair persons, and Internet service providers to report to law enforcement if they know of or see images depicting child pornography. Currently, this duty is imposed only on film and print processors. The bill also raises the age of children that the statute applies to from 17 to 18 (Section 568.110);

(24) Creates the crime of sexual exploitation of a minor. The crime occurs when a person creates or records pornographic or obscene material using children. The crime is a class A felony (Section 573.023);

(25) Revises the elements of promoting child pornography in the first degree and increases the penalty from a class B to a class A felony, and repeals the crime of promoting child pornography in the second degree (Sections 573.025, 573.035);

(26) Adds possession of visual depictions of minors engaging in or observing sexual conduct to the crime of possession of child pornography and increases the penalty from a class A misdemeanor to a class D felony (Section 573.037);

(27) Adds meeting the definition of "identifiable minor" to the ways in which the child's age may be determined in any prosecution for child pornography in the first or second degree or for furnishing child pornography to minors (Section 573.050);

(28) Requires law enforcement officials to forward registration information of sex offenders within 3 days to the Missouri Highway Patrol (Section 589.410);

(29) Requires certain registered sex offenders to report in person every 90 days to law enforcement officials, with other offenders reporting in person annually. Offenders who are working or attending school in another state for more than 14 days in a year must also report in person to the law enforcement of that state (Section 589.414);

(30) Designates the Department of Social Services' team that assists in local investigations of child sexual abuse as the "State Technical Assistance Team," and increases its scope to include child abuse, child neglect, child exploitation, or child fatality. All records and reports of the team are subject to the Sunshine Law (Section 660.520); and

(31) Requires the Department of Social Services to organize a child abuse pilot program in Jackson County, made up of several non-profit and local governmental agencies. The program will formulate a community-based network to combat child abuse and neglect (Section 1).