§2 ch4: Investigation Response
4.5.5 Office of the Child Advocate
The Office of the Child Advocate was established as the Office of Child Welfare Ombudsman by executive order in August 2003. Effective August 28, 2004 Office of the Child Welfare Ombudsman was changed to the “Office of Child Advocate for Children’s Protection and Services” (Section 37.705.1 RSMo.)
The purpose of the Office of Child Advocate is to assure children receive adequate protection and care from services, programs offered by the Department of Social Services, the Department of Mental Health or the juvenile court. The child advocate reports directly to the commissioner of the Office of Administration.
Per section 37.710.1 RSMo., the Office of Child Advocate has access to the following information:
- The names and physical location of all children in protective services, treatment, or other programs under the jurisdiction of the Children’s Division, Department of Mental Health and the juvenile courts;
- All written reports of child abuse and neglect; and
- All current records required to be maintained pursuant to chapters 210 and 211, RSMo.
18.104.22.168 Office of the Child Advocate Authority
Pursuant to Section 37.710.2, the Office of the Child Advocate shall have authority as follows:
- To communicate privately by any means possible with any child under protective services and anyone working with the child, including the family, relatives, courts, employees of the Department of Social Services and the Department of Mental Health, and other persons or entities providing treatment and services.
- To have access, including the right to inspect, copy and subpoena records held by the clerk of the juvenile or family court, juvenile officers, law enforcement agencies, institutions, public or private, and other agencies, or persons with whom a particular child has been either voluntarily or otherwise placed for care, or has received treatment within this state or in another state.
- To work in conjunction with juvenile officers and guardian ad litem.
- To file any findings or reports of the child advocate regarding the parent or child with the court, and issue recommendations regarding the disposition of an investigation, which may be provided to the court and to the investigating agency;
- To file amicus curiae briefs (petition the court for permission to file a brief) on behalf of the interests of the parent or child.
- To initiate meetings with the Department of Social Services, Department of Mental Health, the juvenile courts and juvenile officers.
- To provide information to the public regarding the Child Advocate’s Office, its purpose and how to be contacted.
- To apply for and accept grants, gifts, and bequests of funds from other states, federal, and interstate agencies, and independent authorities, private firms, individuals, and foundations to carry out duties and responsibilities. The funds shall be deposited in a dedicated account established within the office to permit moneys to be expended in accordance with the provisions of the grant or bequest.
- Subject to appropriation, establish local panels on a regional or county basis to adequately and efficiently carry out the functions and duties of the office, and address complaints in a timely manner.
- To mediate between alleged victims of sexual misconduct and school districts. Pursuant to section 160.262.1 RSMo., the Office of the Child Advocate may offer mediation services when requested by both parties when child abuse allegations arise in a school setting. The mediator must not be a mandated reporter of child abuse. No student, parent of a student, school employee, or school district will be required to enter into mediation. If either party does not wish to enter into mediation, mediation will not occur. Procedures for mediation are described in section 160.262.1 RSMo.
22.214.171.124 Children’s Division/Office of the Child Advocate Agreement
Per agreement between the Department of Social Services/Children’s Division and the Office of Child Advocate:
- Complaints to the Office of Child Advocate will be addressed when all levels of grievances have been exhausted through Children’s Division.
- Reports and records will be shared with the Office of Child Advocate upon circuit manager review.
- Unsubstantiated reports will be released upon written request to the division by the reporter.
- The Constituent Response Unit within the Children’s Division will provide information to the Office of Child Advocate as outlined in Section 37.710.2 RSMo.
Chapter Memoranda History: (prior to 1/31/07)