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State House committee tackles Department of Social Services, hears allegations of abuse

Marshall Griffin-
St. Louis Public Radio

Two days of hearings are underway by an interim House committee looking into how well state agencies in Missouri are delivering services to their clients.

The hearings began with a critique of the Missouri Department of Social Services.  Dan Amsden with the group Spending Oversight Council testified that DSS officials are doing a poor job of preventing non-eligible people from receiving welfare benefits, and of tracking those who no longer need them.

"Since...many of these programs are intended to get people through rough times, you would think that there would be some metric of how many people got off of these rolls, rather than just how many we gave things to," Amsden said.

Committee member Karla May (D, St. Louis) defended the department.  She says 19 agencies across the state actively work to get people off of welfare and back into the workforce.

Much of Monday's testimony focused on how well the state's Division of Family Services (DFS) responds to reports of child abuse.  Tim Bruce, a law enforcement officer from Springfield, says he's spent several years trying to get the state to investigate claims that three of his grandchildren are being sexually abused.

"All along, DFS has told us that nothing has happened to our grandchildren," Bruce said.  "Now we (found) out recently that it was...confirmed through an investigation that is ongoing...that my oldest grandson was, in fact, sexually molested."

Brian Kinkade, the acting Director of the Department of Social Services, also testified.  He said that they respond to around 50,000 out of 100,000 calls per year to the Family Services' hotline, and that protecting children is his agency's "first and foremost priority."

Testimony is scheduled to resume Tuesday before the Missouri House Interim Committee on Government Responsiveness and Efficiency, and more meetings are planned later this year.  It's chaired by State Representative Sue Allen (R, Town and Country).

Follow Marshall Griffin on Twitter:  @MarshallGReport

Copyright 2013 KWMU-FM. To see more, visit http://www.stlpublicradio.org.

Missouri Public Radio State House Reporter Marshall Griffin is a proud alumnus of the University of Mississippi (a.k.a., Ole Miss), and has been in radio for over 20 years, starting out as a deejay. His big break in news came when the first President Bush ordered the invasion of Panama in 1989. Marshall was working the graveyard shift at a rock station, and began ripping news bulletins off the old AP teletype and reading updates between songs. From there on, his radio career turned toward news reporting and anchoring. In 1999, he became the capital bureau chief for Florida's Radio Networks, and in 2003 he became News Director at WFSU-FM/Florida Public Radio. During his time in Tallahassee he covered seven legislative sessions, Governor Jeb Bush's administration, four hurricanes, the Terri Schiavo saga, and the 2000 presidential recount. Before coming to Missouri, he enjoyed a brief stint in the Blue Ridge Mountains, reporting and anchoring for WWNC-AM in Asheville, North Carolina. Marshall lives in Jefferson City with his wife, Julie, their dogs, Max and Mason, and their cat, Honey.
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