Associated Press

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) – Missouri’s governor has appointed 16 people to help review child abuse cases after the state delayed dozens of hearings because review boards lacked enough members to meet.

Four of the six state Child Abuse and Neglect Review Boards didn’t have enough members to meet before Gov. Eric Greitens’ appointments, said Rebecca Woelfel, spokeswoman for the Missouri Department of Social Services. The regional boards are supposed to have nine members each, and at least five must be present to form a quorum necessary to meet, the Springfield News-Leader reported.

But board meetings had to be canceled four times in fiscal 2017. Eight to 10 cases are scheduled for hearings at a given meeting, Woelfel said.

“The Children’s Division recognizes the importance of the Child Abuse and Neglect Review Boards in protecting Missouri children,” she said. “The action that the governor has taken to appoint new board members is an important, proactive step to ensure that cases will be resolved more quickly.”

State law says the purpose of the boards is to “provide an independent review of child abuse and neglect determinations in instances in which the alleged perpetrator is aggrieved” by a state decision.

The Greitens administration reported that when the governor took office in January, nearly all the 54 review board appointments were either vacant or filled with an appointee whose term had technically expired. The administration has worked to fill those seats since it identified the vacancies, said Sheena Greitens, Missouri’s first lady and an assistant political science professor at the University of Missouri-Columbia.

“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,” Gov. Eric Greitens said. “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 and do it well.”

(© Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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