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MO Child Abuse Task Force Releases Findings

Sen. Bob Dixon/Credit State of Missouri

Closing a loophole similar to the one in Pennsylvania that protected Jerry Sandusky from being reported to state child abuse investigators was one of 22 recommendations made by a Missouri task force Thursday.

Current Missouri law allows mandatory reporters to report suspected child abuse and neglect to a designated agent in their organization. But the Task Force, after hearing from 35 child sexual abuse experts over the last year, says that“sometimes this results in reports not being made as individuals in an institution’s chain of command can disagree with the need to make a report.” The group adds that prosecutors are often hesitant to go after failing to report because the precise failure in the chain of command is hard to identify.

St. Louis County Republican Rep. Marsha Haefner says that has to change.

“The failures that were witnessed as a story of continued abuse at Penn State unraveled could also happen in Missouri under our current law,” says Haefner.

Recommendation 17 by the Task Force requires mandatory reporters to directly report suspected child abuse and neglect to the Children’s Division.

Other items called for the implementation of standardized training for all mandated reporters, expansion of community-based child abuse prevention education, and to create and fund a child sexual abuse public awareness campaign, among others. Here’s the full report.

The task force consisted of 14 individuals, all of whom have been actively involved in preventing the abuse and neglect of children and promoting their well-being, including Springfield Republican Senator Bob Dixon.

“To address the epidemic of child sexual abuse, we need awareness, vigilance – from the Statehouse to the schools and to our houses of worship. A wakeup call has been sounded, discussion has begun, and I believe this report is truly a blueprint for action,” Sen. Dixon said.

The group is now passing its recommendations onto Governor Nixon, the General Assembly and the State Board of Education.