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Lawmaker wants Missouri to hire more employees to investigate child abuse claims

Calls come after death of Grayson O’Connor in Kansas City
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Posted at 5:10 PM, Dec 21, 2023

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Missouri State Rep. Aaron Crossley sees a need for more boots on the ground after speaking with the director of Missouri’s Department of Social Services.

Crossley’s meeting last week came after the death of Grayson O’Connor, 5, in Kansas City, Missouri, on Nov. 27.

A Kansas City, Missouri, Police Department spokesperson said O’Connor fell from a window at the Grand Boulevard Lofts apartment building.

The Jackson County prosecutor is reviewing the case and whether to press charges.

Police initially said O’Connor’s mother is a “subject of interest,” but she is not under arrest. Records show KCPD responded to Grayson's apartment on calls related to child concerns in the past.

The Department of Social Services oversees the Children’s Division, which investigates cases of child abuse and neglect, among other duties.

The department said it won’t release any records related to its interaction with Grayson until April 2024 at the earliest.

Crossley, who represents Independence in the state capitol, works as a social worker. He met with the DSS director to learn how the agency operates and where it needs improvement.

“So I can help from a legislative perspective work out some solutions and also help troubleshoot as a social worker,” Crossley pointed out.

He told KSHB 41 News he sees a need for the state to hire more employees, especially in the Kansas City area.

“The lower the caseload, the more people can go out and pay attention to more preventative things like helping people access mental healthcare, helping people access food and housing, so kids can be safe,” Crossley said.

The state legislature took action this year. It budgeted $33 million for the Children’s Division to help it hire more than 100 new investigators, contract social service agencies to fill gaps, and increase pay.

The starting annual salary for a children’s service worker is now $42,817, up from $35,640.

Documents highlighting the totality of Grayson’s situation aren’t yet available to the public, but Crossley doesn’t want another child to fall through the cracks.

A survey of his constituents shows nearly 90% support spending more money on children services.

“I think most Missourians would want to make sure we’re allocating resources robustly to address childhood abuse and neglect,” Crossley said.

Crossley also plans to visit the agencies the state contracts to see how their work supports the state.