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Infant's Death Spawns an Abuse Bill

The death of an infant in Springfield has prompted a state lawmaker to file a bill concerning reports of child abuse and neglect. KSMU's Kristian Kriner has more on the bill and the infant's case.

Gavin Jordan was only 18 months old when he died in October of 2005.

The mother's boyfriend is now serving a life sentence for suffocating Gavin.

Gavin's Grandparents, Tim and Debi Davis watched Gavin on a regular basis and began to see bruises on his body.

Debi Davis says she called the Department of Social Services several times to report suspected abuse.

A Social Services worker went to the mother's home and left a business card on the door, asking the mother and boyfriend to call and set up a meeting.

When the Social Services worker met with Gavin's mother and boyfriend, the worker found no signs of abuse.

Debi says she pleaded with Social Services to continue to investigate, but Social Services refused.

Now, Tim and Debi are working with State Representative Shane Schoeller of Springfield on a child abuse and neglect bill.

Debi Davis says this bill wouldn't be a major change to the current child abuse laws, but she hopes it will lead to bigger changes.

"But what we're learning is that you got to do it one grain of sand at a time. But we're hopeful that even if it's one grain of sand that will help save another child from going through what Gavin went through," Davis said.

This bill would require social services workers involved in a child death or injury case to receive preliminary evaluations to determine if they accurately investigated the case.

It would require Social Services workers to immediately investigate a case when more than one hotline call about the same child is made within 72-hours.

The bill would also require child abuse hotline workers to tell individuals to call 911 when a child is in immediate danger and Social Services workers would not be allowed to leave business cards when no one is home.

Representative Shane Schoeller says this bill will help make sure Social Services workers follow up on every abuse call.

"Every situation of child abuse is different. You can't take the law and wrap it around every child abuse case and prevent it. But if there are ways to improve it and to continue to decrease the child abuse secures. We just want to make sure that every child that is potentially in harm or not in harm because sometimes the wrong determination is made, that the right call is made in there," Schoeller said.

Schoeller says Greene County has higher abuse rates than most of the counties in Missouri, so he hopes this bill will at least save one child from abuse.

Debi Davis, Gavin's Grandmother, says she wants Gavin's voice to be heard and wants this bill to be the first step toward ending child abuse.

For KSMU News, I'm Kristian Kriner.