A NOTE FROM EMILY:
A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to sit down with the Honorable Judge Darrell Missey, who took on the role of Director at Missouri Children’s Division earlier this year.
As you might expect, Judge Missey has been busy. While most of our discussion centered around shared challenges and the ways our two organizations work together to ensure the safety and wellbeing of Missouri’s children, I had my team follow up with a few important questions I knew would be of most interest to our partners.
First, I wanted to find out what has inspired Darrell most – from the beginnings of his career down to his latest daily duties. Second, I thought it would be insightful for Darrell to summarize his top 3 priorities or goals as CD’s Director.
Some key themes resonated with me when I read Judge Missey’s response: proactivity, prevention, and empathy for families. I really think his words will resonate with you, too. I hope you’ll take a few moments today to read what he has to say.
Emily van Schenkhof
My Top 3 Priorities
“All of my priorities are what I believe is necessary for us to take care of kids and families. Given our circumstances at this time, my top priorities are as follows:
1. Getting the agency fully staffed. This means filling the open vacancies we currently have, and making sure we really have all of the budgeted positions we need. I believe that we need to take a close look at expanding our workforce to include workers dedicated to prevention and family preservation.
2. Reducing the number of children in foster care. Missouri has double the national average of kids in care, coming in at fifth in the nation per capita. Foster care comes at a heavy emotional and psychological price for the kids who are placed there, and we need to keep them out of the system if we can do so safely, or move them out as promptly as possible. Again, we need to look at prevention of child abuse and neglect, and we need to move children who are in the system to a long term home as soon as possible, whether the outcome be reunification, guardianship, or adoption.
3. Moving the child welfare system toward a more proactive approach. Over my entire legal career, I observed a child welfare system that is reactive and driven by fear. Something bad happens, and we react. How do we react? Based on our fear of the worst possible outcome. We need to replace that reactive fearful culture with a proactive hopeful culture that is informed by evidence and best practice.”
My Biggest Inspiration
“My biggest inspiration is my own childhood family. I came to Children’s Division because of them. I originally ran for judge twenty years ago because of them.
My parents were fantastic, but in the early 1970s, we faced serious challenges because of my mother’s severe bipolar disorder. Eventually, medications were developed that improved her condition dramatically, but in my younger childhood, my mom struggled, and once had to be placed in a mental hospital for three months. We endured difficult times, and often a really dirty house.
After I grew up and became a lawyer, I encountered juvenile cases where children were removed from their homes for far less than the troubles my family experienced in 1974. When I encountered those cases, I realized that but for the grace of God, those families were my family, and that foster kid was me.
I ran for judge to make sure that our system was fair. I left the bench and came to CD because I believe that we can limit foster care to those cases where children are facing serious danger, and we can help other struggling families to safely care for their children at home without inflicting the trauma of removal.
My inspiration comes from my sisters, Michelle and Danette, and my parents, Leroy and Diane. I came to Children’s Division with the hope that I could help make a better system for families like mine and kids like me.”
Judge Darrell Missey, Director, Missouri Children’s Division