This report is part 25 of an investigative series looking into reported corruption in the Missouri Judiciary and family courts. For the rest of the investigation visit the catalog here.
While the Department of Justice is flexing its muscles to send the FBI after concerned parents who want to yell at their school boards, the Missouri state legislature is completely confounded over what actions to take to stop its Department of Social Services (DSS) from losing foster kids to sex traffickers.
The House Children and Families Committee has hauled DSS Director Jennifer Tidball in front of them to yell at her several times over the last few years. Tuesday’s hearing went the way the rest of them have. Legislators made a big fuss about how inept and corrupt she is and then they let her walk out (early and without answering questions) without any consequences. This time it was revealed that Tidball’s department of family services has lost countless foster kids, some of whom have been sex -rafficked across multiple states. NPR reported.
The federal watchdog’s review of 59 cases in 2019 found that nearly half of the case files contained no evidence children were reported as missing to local law enforcement or the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, as required by federal law and state policy.
In one instance, a child had been sex-trafficked in as many as four states while missing, the report read.
“Kids are getting made prostitutes. And I don’t like it,” Rep. Dottie Bailey, R-Eureka said. “I don’t know where we go from here.”
It seems to me that lawmakers should get the FBI involved, or the attorney general or the Department of Homeland Security—or maybe the U.S. Marshals Service. What’s going on here is a crime. Is anyone going to treat it that way?
The report, and the resulting House hearing, is only the latest example of legislative criticism of the department. Lawmakers have held a series of hearings over the last year on the department’s lack of oversight of unlicensed youth residential facilities accused of abuse that has expanded into the department’s handling of a variety of issues, like layoffs of Children’s Division employees.
The frustration among members of the committee was palpable Tuesday.
“What I heard was a department that has left the hearing early, who didn’t have answers to the questions that we were asking, and I’m really disappointed…” Rep. Mary Elizabeth Coleman, an Arnold Republican and chair of the committee, said in reference to DSS officials leaving before the hearing had finished. “There are people who are sitting on this dais who are furious.”
Too bad fury doesn’t lock anyone behind bars. PJ Media reached out to Coleman and other representatives who were there that day to ask why Tidball hasn’t been removed from her position and investigated for crimes against children. Coleman did not respond to an email but decided to get into an argument with me on Twitter instead. Coleman responded to my criticism of the lack of action by Missouri Republicans by saying I have misunderstood state versus federal branches of government. While it’s true that state legislators can’t order the FBI to do anything, are we to believe that a state representative can’t get together with her committee members and contact the FBI to find out if they are investigating Tidball, or put pressure on them to do that? Can they not refer her to law enforcement for her part in this criminal activity?
Ignoring the lack of understanding about state vs federal and branches of government what makes you think we are not doing anything. https://t.co/MCjEpFLXnQ
— MaryElizabethColeman (@meaccoleman) October 6, 2021
Coleman did not answer my inquiry about what the legislature CAN do about the situation after I gave her the opportunity. There is no evidence that anyone in the Missouri legislature has taken any action against Tidball other than to pose for cameras while saying how upset they are at her.
Representative Dottie Bailey did respond to PJ Media’s inquiry. She says it’s Governor Mike Parson’s fault.
Unfortunately our power is very limited in action regarding the incompetence and negligence of the top brass at DSS. We can not terminate anyone’s employment in State government directly. Tidball is the Acting Director of DSS and only the Governor holds that power to issue a pink slip. Our distain and frustration with her job performance has been delivered to the Executive Branch continuously for the past year. Bringing attention to the situation as we have done on behalf of our constituents is a large part of resolving the issues or we would hope. We do hold the power of the purse and if things do not change we will have to take more dire actions in the budget process to demand change.
Isn’t Tidball a mandated reporter who did not report missing foster kids? If so, at the very least she should be charged with a Class A misdemeanor for each child she did not report missing. “Failure to report is a Class A misdemeanor for a person who is required under the law to report,” according to Missouri law. A Class A misdemeanor carries a penalty of up to one year in prison and a $5000 fine. Multiply that times the 978 missing children Tidball didn’t report and you get life in prison and a $4.8 million fine. That sounds about right to me. Maybe if they threw the book at Tidball, the next director would be more careful with vulnerable foster children.
According to Bailey, she may be able to worm her way out of that one too.
“She isn’t the one who directly reports those,” said Bailey. “It would be employees down line. And there is no documentation as she stated in the hearing because they blamed the 2016 ‘don’t do’ memo (a memo telling employees they don’t need to document several key points) from a former administration.”
It is unclear whether Tidball is a mandatory reporter. It would seem elementary that anyone who works for DSS should be a mandated reporter. If some are and some aren’t, then it’s pretty easy to pass the buck to “employees down the line” when things go sideways. That’s one requirement the legislature could enact for all DSS employees if they wanted to.
When Democrats want to use the FBI to raid the offices of a political opponent like Roger Stone, somehow it happens like magic (and CNN cameras are camped out to catch it live). But Republicans are so impotent they can’t figure out how to use their power in a state they run to arrange for the arrest of a government agent contributing to the sex-trafficking of foster kids. Is there any question why we lose all the time? It reminds me of that scene in “Overboard” where the Coast Guard is helping Dean get to Annie and the young rule-follower tells his commanding officer that there’s nothing in the manual that allows them to help someone chase after a lover. The commander replies, “Well, put your nose in the manual and find something, Lucas!” Our lawmakers are always that naive kid with no idea how to make stuff happen. What good is getting elected as a representative if you can’t coordinate with or put pressure on law enforcement to enforce the law?
The Missouri legislature has known about the foster care sex-trafficking problem since at least 2019, according to a press release written by the Missouri State Highway Patrol. Lawmakers have no excuse for not doing anything about this before now—including but not limited to writing new laws to take control of DSS if the governor refuses to clean house.
The goal of the officers was to ensure the safety of the foster children, while identifying and eliminating fraud and abuse occurring within Missouri’s Foster Care program. As a direct result of this operation, five individuals were arrested and 23 additional investigations were generated, four of which are for human trafficking.
At the very least lawmakers could financially gut DSS until working there became so unpleasant Tidball would quit and find a job elsewhere (preferably at the city morgue where she can’t hurt anyone anymore because they’re already dead). There are lots of creative ways to get rid of a problem when you hold the power of the purse.
Republican Missouri lawmakers have known that DCF was losing foster kids to sex trafficking since 2019. They’ve allowed #JenniferTidball to remain the director despite this. Who is more at fault? The people losing the kids or the legislators who do nothing to stop it? pic.twitter.com/q2KoWCAXOE
— Megan Fox 🦊 (@MeganFoxWriter) October 6, 2021
A common problem in Missouri when you bring evidence of corruption and crimes to the attention of lawmakers is to hear that it’s somehow not their job to do anything about it. Democrats never have this problem. When Democrats want something done, they make it their job (even if it’s not). That’s how we end up getting FBI snitches unleashed on parents who are active at school board meetings or the IRS auditing Tea Party groups. Democrats get stuff done through any means. Where there is a will there is a way on the dark side of the aisle. Meanwhile, Republicans sit on their hands and whine about how terrible everything is and do nothing to change it, and when anyone calls them on it they claim you have the wrong department.
I have personal experience with this in Missouri. I accompanied a group of parents being railroaded by the Missouri judiciary to visit Republican lawmakers who all acted very concerned and then turned around and did nothing to help them. Missouri constituents couldn’t even get an audience with the head of the judiciary committee, Republican Senator Tony Luetkemeyer, who continues to dodge press and constituents reaching out to him. The legislature didn’t even hold a show hearing to listen to the victims officially on the record. They haven’t done anything. And these are the people on “our” side. It’s maddening.
Kenneth Rosa, media personality for The Father’s Rights Movement who is very politically active in Missouri, posted this on Facebook on Tuesday.
This is the second time Director Tidball has been in front of the Missouri state legislature this year.
Both times she was “screamed” at (harshly rebuked) at by Representative Bailey as she should be. My question to representative Bailey is why hasn’t Tidball been arrested on the house floor and removed from her job?
When is the Missouri legislature going to stop overlooking that family courts are sex trafficking children through DFS?
When is the Missouri legislature going to stop overlooking that fit willing and able parents are being removed by the million in family court for profit and enrichment of the state?
For the love of god there is a video of the STL county guardian ad litems stating that they are Cash For Kids LLc and that all the judges are in on it.
Not one single judge has been investigated, impeached or removed.
Not one single guardian ad litem has been fired or arrested.
Not one law has been written or implemented to protect our children from the corrupt family courts crime mob directly involved in family courts on the parenting side of family courts through DFS side.
Not one special investigation counsel has been formed.
Governor Mike Parson where are you at on this? This can’t continue. DO SOMETHING. Put some corrupt family court judiciary members in jail. CRIMES ARE BEING COMMITTED and being hidden by the judiciary and the BAR.
Federal law and state policy were broken in this article alone to not report the missing children. That means there is complacency!
STOP blowing smoke and DO SOMETHING!
It’s not looking good. Missouri Republicans are proving to have no political will to even fight government-sponsored sex trafficking of children let alone look into judicial corruption. And Republicans run everything in Missouri! It’s a deep-red state. So for those of you who believe the answer to all your problems is to move to a red state, think again. Republicans are historically ineffective, spineless, rule-following, loser, buck-passing wimps.
May God help the children of Missouri because no one else will.