A damning audit of the Missouri Division of Family Services has uncovered a host of irregularities in the policies concerning foster children. The report on the foster care system released this week pinpoints numerous shortcomings in the program including a massive lack of in-home visits in direct violation of policy.
The audit by State Auditor Claire McCaskill especially criticized the Division of Family Services over the issue of in-home visits. Twice monthly home visits were conducted in just four of the 170 cases audited. I would imagine this is not the case universally but it illustrates a massive problem within the Division of Family Services.
The audit reported a lack of criminal background checks on many foster parents and a general lack of contact with the state.
An even more interesting finding involves those tragic cases of child abuse in the foster parent program that led to a death. Of the 147 children who died of abuse from 1998-2002, 70 percent were from families that had been reported to the child abuse hotline or had some prior contact with state caseworkers. In other words, we can predict with high certainty the families who may well be guilty of abuse. That is unforgivable.
Gov. Bob Holden has started an overhaul of this program and others within the child welfare system. That overhaul must be thorough and extensive. And change must come as a result.
As a state and society, we cannot under any circumstances allow apathy and the burdens of work to cause the abandonment of these vulnerable children. We must have change and it must come now.