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Rep. Hannah Kelly favors privatizing some aspects of Missouri’s Children’s Division

Rep. Hannah Kelly, R-Mountain Grove, speaks at a committee hearing during the 2023 Legislative Session.
Tim Bommel
Missouri House of Representatives
Rep. Hannah Kelly, R-Mountain Grove, speaks at a committee hearing during the 2023 legislative session.

During a hearing of the House Children and Families Committee in October 2021, lawmakers slammed leaders of the Missouri Department of Social Services over their handling of missing foster children in the state.

A report found the department’s Children’s Division repeatedly failed to report absent kids and did little to prevent them from going missing again.

A few months after that hearing, Jefferson County Judge Darrell Missey took over as director of the division.

Rep. Hannah Kelly, R-Mountain Grove, served on the Children and Families Committee during that hearing and now serves as chair. She says while she appreciates the work Missey has done, problems remain in the Children’s Division.

On what the state can do to address those problems, Kelly sees the benefits of collaboration between the government and private entities.

“I'm saying let the state focus on the hotline, let the state focus on the investigations, let the state focus on the overall mechanism of how we implement the best outcome for these kids in crisis,” Kelly said. “But let people in the private sector have more freedom to work out the answers that are brought to the table.”

Kelly spoke on the topic on the latest episode of “Politically Speaking.” Here’s what else she talked about on the show:

  • The hundreds of millions of dollars that Gov. Mike Parson vetoed from the state budget. Kelly says she believes there will be efforts to overturn some of those vetoes, though she isn’t sure of their success.
  • Her support of making it harder to amend Missouri’s constitution. Kelly says she will do everything she can to encourage that conversation next session.
  • Whether Missouri Republicans will try to pass further restrictions affecting transgender people in the state.
  • The upcoming 2024 election cycle. Kelly is supporting Rep. Cody Smith for state treasurer.

Kelly was first elected to the House in 2016. She is about to begin her final year because of term limits. Outside of the legislature, she owns a real estate company with her sister.

Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.
Sarah Kellogg is a Missouri Statehouse and Politics Reporter for St. Louis Public Radio and other public radio stations across the state.