Like almost all states, Missouri is experiencing budget shortfalls caused by COVID-19-related revenue declines. On June 30, the day before the Fiscal Year 2021 budget took effect, Governor Mike Parson announced more than $448 million in spending restrictions resulting in the elimination of 500 jobs across state agencies. Out of the 500 eliminated jobs, 200 of them were vacant and 300 filled positions were eliminated.  

When the layoffs occurred, 96 positions in Missouri’s Children’s Division—the agency responsible for protecting abused and neglected children—were eliminated through state budget withholds. Of the 96 positions eliminated in Children’s Division, 80 of them were filled and 16 were vacant.

While supervisors and managers were laid off, child welfare organizations are concerned with the loss of leadership and knowledge these professionals provided to staff who work directly with children and families.

At the end of June, 13,885 children were in the state’s custody with over 80 percent in foster and relative homes. In better financial times, turnover for social workers in the state’s Children’s Division has been more than 50 percent. Apprehension about the layoffs center on larger caseloads for workers, causing delays in investigations and leaving children vulnerable to maltreatment. As children return to schools and day care centers, reports of suspected abuse and neglect are expected to increase. 

As we all struggle through this pandemic and the financial stress it puts on families and governments, children will be in greater need of our support. You can help by recognizing the challenges families face, and when possible, offer support and encouragement.

If you suspect a child is in danger of abuse or neglect, call the 24-hour, toll-free hotline:

  • Missouri:  1-800-922-5530
  • Kansas:  1-800-392-3738
  • Childhelp National Hotline:  1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453)