We had a great turn-out for our listening post on Tuesday.

We had a great turn-out for our listening post on Tuesday.

Actually, “listening post” is a bit of a misnomer. The purpose of the meeting was to extend our Child Abuse and Neglect Joint Committee to locals for input on their experiences with the Division of Children’s Services.

The intent of the Joint Committee is to look at all the different departments of Children’s Service and determine what is working as the Legislature intended and what may need some correction. We began holding hearings in Jefferson City last January with the Division Director and then moved on to hearings with the Hot Line Department, the legal counsel, the prosecutors, the juvenile officers, judges and county sheriffs.

The reason for all the different hearings was to acquaint the committee with the procedures that the department has implemented and determine whether they are actually working as intended.

Hearing from the public is the last step in the initial investigation. We are going to hold additional listening posts in Seneca and again at Pineville for an evening hearing.

All 14 committee members have been encouraged to hold local meetings to determine if we have problems common to the entire state. The turnover rate for case workers continues to grow and many of the established guidelines for work loads are being exceeded because of lack of qualified personnel. Our fear is that as supervisors become overloaded, decisions may be made that are detrimental to the children and their families. Proper training is one of the most important criteria to working with the highly charged situations involving children and their families.

After our annual report to the House and Senate, I intend to turn the attention of the committee to the training procedures we are currently using and compare them to procedures from the past. I think we need to look at the resources of the departments and ascertain if they are being used to the best advantage. There is no more important asset in the state of Missouri than our children and I think the Children’s Services Division should be the best run agency of the state.

 I visited most of the elementary schools in my district on Thursday delivering the Missouri Government handbooks for the fourth grade classes. I look forward to going to the classes and teaching the kids about their state government. If you think for a minute that they aren’t paying attention, you should hear some of the questions and comments I get. The best ones always start out:” You know what my grandpa says about the President?” It’s amazing how much they pick up from hearing us talk back to the nightly news!

We went to the Oktoberfest activities in Pineville Saturday. They had a great crowd with fun for everyone. You sure can get in trouble trying to judge chili! I’ve got a great idea for a fundraiser next year. How about a booth selling Tums? The pie auction was a lot of fun too! The best part for me was watching a little guy on his mom’s shoulders running up the bids.

We are fortunate to have a great Department of Transportation representative for our area. Dan Salisbury does a super job of helping us get things done in our area. I know that funds are tight for MODOT, but he is always ready to help out with needed repairs. With winter just around the corner there are bound to be icy and snowy conditions but our highway department people do a great job of keeping us as safe as possible. Thanks, guys!

More next week, until then I am and remain in your service.

Bill Lant represents the people of Newton and McDonald counties in the Missouri House of Representatives.