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Heavy caseload in Boone-Callaway juvenile court office

Boone County Juvenile Office Supervisor Angie Jaco has worked in the 13th Circuit Court’s Family Court Services for the past 15 years. In that time, she said, the caseload has grown significantly.

“It has blown up within, I would say, the last six or seven years,” she said.

Jaco said 10 years ago she had about 125 cases involving children who had allegedly been abused or neglected by parents or guardians. That number has grown to about 375 cases in Boone County and at least another 100 in Callaway County, according to Jaco.

“Our practice isn’t really different. It’s just the number of kids that are coming into care because of the abuse or the neglect that they’ve suffered,” she said.

The 13th Circuit Court Juvenile Division works with the nonprofit organization Heart of Missouri CASA, or Court Appointed Special Advocates. The organization is made up of about 80 volunteers who work with 180 children in the foster care system in Boone and Callaway counties.

“Basically, to speak up for them and make sure that they don’t get lost in the system that’s pretty overburdened,” said Heart of Missouri CASA executive director Kelly Hill.

Hill said CASA volunteers visit the children twice a month, and work with the professional staff to advocate for what’s best for the child. Hill and Jaco said children who work with CASA volunteers typically spend a shorter amount of time in the foster care system.

“Last year, it was about three months quicker, which may not seem like a big number, but when you’re talking about the life of a child, a 5-year-old, where time is just different than it is for an adult, that’s a lot of time,” Hill said.

On Thursday Gov. Eric Greitens appointed 27 people to three different boards designed to protect Missouri children, including the Child Abuse and Neglect Review Boards, Children’s Trust Fund Board, and Missouri State Foster Care and Adoption Board.

Greitens said four of the six Child Abuse and Neglect Review Boards couldn’t hear cases because they didn’t have the required number of members to meet.

“If you’re a kid under Missouri’s protection, you should be protected,” Greitens said in a statement Thursday. “If you’re a child who’s been abused, you should know that you’re safe and that your abusers have been brought to justice. If you’re in foster care, you should know that good people are watching out for you. These children are our responsibility. And we need to take that work seriously.”

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