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Politics

Proposal to Raise the Age for Minors Comes Before House Committee

http://ozarkspub.vo.llnwd.net/o37/KSMU/audio/mp3/proposalto_1166.mp3

Parents of troubled teens pleaded with a House committee this week to pass a bill that would give parents the option of raising the age at which their child is considered an adult. KSMU's Missy Shelton reports.

Some of the lawmakers on the committee admitted they were unaware that in Missouri, teens are considered adults when they reach age 17. They said the common belief is that teens are minors until age 18.

The House Children and Families Committee is considering a bill that would allow parents to petition the court and ask for their child to be a minor under the law until age 18.

A Mid-Missouri woman, Cathy Jackson says such a law could've helped her keep a reign on her daughter, who left home at age 17 to live with a man.

Speaking to the House committee, Jackson said the night she called the police, she was upset to learn that her daughter was a legal adult and could live wherever she wanted.

Jackson says she has very little contact with her daughter now.

Jackson says giving parents a way to keep their teen under their supervision longer will reduce the number of runaways and high school dropouts.

Rick Crawford has similar sentiments. He's the father of a 17-year-old daughter who moved out.

Crawford says Missouri's law that confers legal adult status to 17 year olds makes the state an enticing place for teens from other states.

Though no one spoke in opposition to the bill, one member of the committee expressed concerns.

Republican Representative Ward Franz of West Plains is a former juvenile officer.

He says creating a system in which some 17 year old still are considered to be minors while others are adults will make it difficult for law enforcement to know how to handle these teens.

The bill faces a vote in the House committee...If it gains approval, it moves to the House floor.