We had a great committee hearing at the Capitol last week. My sub-committee on child abuse heard from Ms. Barbara Brown-Johnson, the executive director of the child advocacy center in Springfield.

We had a great committee hearing at the Capitol last week. My sub-committee on child abuse heard from Ms. Barbara Brown-Johnson, the executive director of the child advocacy center in Springfield. Child advocacy centers are not state run. They are child-friendly places where child abuse investigations can begin. They are a place where the child's needs come first. They are objective and neutral in their approach to the investigation and use research-based methods to gather information from the child.

Specialized medical exams are often performed on child abuse victims. The plan is simple. A forensic interview done by a competent professional tends to decrease the times a child is interviewed and greatly reduces the possibility of contaminating the process. This turns out to be good for the child and for the alleged perpetrator. The interviews are video-audio taped and are non-leading and objective. Statistics show that a great percentage of cases are proven false by using this method also.

Once again, the statistics are horrible to comprehend. More than 76 percent of the interviews are for sexual abuse. We were shown a video of an interview that lasted nearly 45 minutes. I was very impressed by the way the child was treated throughout the interview. By the time the process was completed, there was no doubt that the interviewer had uncovered the entire story from the child.

The PowerPoint presentation then shifted gears to inform the committee of what they determined we need to do to insure that we have professionals in place all over the state that have been properly trained to do this job. We cannot afford to have people interviewing children with a "generalist" point of view. Far too much is at stake for both the children and the alleged perpetrator to rely on a general approach to what literally may turn into a life and death decision! We can't allow our frontline workers to learn on the job when lives of children are hanging in the balance. This is also a reason that turn over is so great. Untrained staff burn out very quickly when they are forced into situations they cannot deal appropriately with.

This hearing was one of the most enlightening we have had. Our next scheduled hearing will be in September when we will hear from prosecutors and their roles in the process. I hope to hold an October meeting in the district and hear from local foster parents. I will post dates and places when we get closer to time for the hearing.

We had a great time at the McDonald County fair last week. There were some wonderful opportunities for the kids to show their animals and 101 of them made the premium sale! This fair is truly about the kids and the hard work they do to get ready for the annual event. Jane and I had a great time working in the cook shack on Friday night: it's a lot of work but it is really fun to see all the people that come in for food and drinks. I look forward every year for the fairs in Newton and McDonald counties, but by the time they are over, I have to admit I'm a little relieved. Too bad we can't have them in November when it's cool.

I hear a lot of talk about our interim committees this year. We have so many really important issues to take up next year that the Speaker decided to get a jump on it by holding hearings all over the state. We have interim committees on agriculture issues, education issues, Medicaid reform, downsizing government, and several others. The point in doing this is to get public involvement. Each of the 163 representatives answer to roughly 36,000 constituents. I send out surveys to determine what the people I represent expect from their state government. To be sure, the people in Newton and McDonald counties are of an entirely different mind on some subjects than those in St. Louis county. My job is to propose legislation and to vote on legislation that the majority of my constituents favor. A St. Louis rep has the same responsibility. By holding these hearings all over the state, the interim committees will have a much better idea of what Missourians want and expect.

I am working with folks in Seneca and Pineville to present a program this fall at the library to inform people of their choices on Medicare part B, C, and D. We will post dates and times when we get closer, probably September or October. The reason for holding meetings at the libraries is they have computers available to allow decisions to be made at the time of the meetings.

Until next week, I am and remain, in your service.

Bill Lant represents the people of Southwest Missouri in the Mo. House of Representatives. Contact him locally at 437-8223 or at his Jefferson City office at (573) 751-9801 or email him at bill.lant@house.mo.gov.