KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Missouri Rep. Sarah Unsicker, a Democrat from Shrewsbury, filed a bill to require licensure for all Missouri residential care facilities Wednesday.
Unsicker said HB 15 is a direct response to the allegations of abuse surrounding Agape Boarding School and the Circle of Hope Girls Ranch, which, under the current state law, do not need to have licensure. Unsicker's bill would require all facilities, including religious ones, to be licensed.
“The horrifying and persistent allegations of endemic abuse, neglect, sexual assault and even trafficking of children that has happened at these boarding schools for decades starkly illustrates the state’s need to supervise these facilities to a greater extent,” Unsicker said.
The representative argued that without the bill, Missouri would be powerless to prevent future harm in religious schools.
In 2021, the house passed two bills to give the Department of Social Services supervision over unlicensed residential schools, require background checks for employees, allow parents full-time access to their children and allow the attorney general to effectively shut down schools in violation of human rights principles.
Yet, Unsicker stated in her Wednesday afternoon release, neither attempted to require licensure.
"Religion is not an excuse to abuse children," she said.