If Missouri is serious about protecting its children from abuse and neglect, then it also has to be serious about training and paying those on the front lines.
It makes no sense that an employee with a master's degree working at the Children's Division of the Missouri Department of Social Services is likely to make the same beginning wage as a one-year hire.
There is no merit pay or pay scale being used. Nor is there any incentive for good employees to stay.
Missouri Rep. Bill Lant, R-Pineville, has recognized the dysfunction in this division and is making it his priority this summer to hold hearings to find a way to solve the problem.
We applaud the Southwest Missouri legislator for his determination in tackling the problems of child abuse and neglect in our state. But then we think his eyes are wide open to the problems of abuse. Lant told the Globe that the story of 9-year-old Rowan Ford, the Stella girl who in 2007 was abducted, raped and murdered, keeps him diligent.
The first year Lant was in the House, he helped pass a bill that made everyone who has interactions with children mandatory reporters of child abuse and neglect.
The next year he sponsored legislation that formed the Joint Committee on Child Abuse and Neglect. The committee began meeting last summer to determine where the problems lie in the Children's Division.
This summer he and others are looking to fix those problems.
We think Lant's approach is a good one.
When he returns to Jefferson City in January, he will be ready to back legislation that will make changes in the Children's Division. If you see Lant this summer, encourage him and add your ideas.
We sincerely hope these efforts can make a difference for our children.
Copyright Joplin Globe. Distributed by the Associated Press.