|R. Kenneth Elliott Children's Justice Center
|351 East Kansas Street
Liberty, Missouri 64068
The Clay County Juvenile Office provides prevention, intervention and protection services to children, families and the community. We work with social service agencies, law enforcement, schools and the general public to address child abuse and neglect, delinquent conduct, and status offenses by youth.
The mission of the Clay County Children's Justice Center is to protect and/or correct children who come within jurisdiction of the juvenile court by utilizing treatment, intervention and services to benefit children, families and the community.
Adoptions in Clay County
Bringing a child into a family through adoption is a wonderful experience. Thousands of children are adopted each year and remain happily with their new families without any legal problems.
The procedures may vary slightly depending on where you reside in the state so it is always best to consult an attorney who is familiar with the local court rules when considering any type of adoption.
Definition of Adoption
Adoption is a legal means by which a person becomes a member of a family different from that person's birth family. Once a Decree of Adoption has been entered, the adoptive parents gain the same rights and responsibilities as parents whose children are born to them. The adoptive parents must provide, nurture, care and support the child. The adopted child has all the same rights as any biological child to inherit from the adoptive parents.
Please Note: Regardless of the type of adoption, the overall process is generally the same. Also, the following is for information purposes only. It is not to be taken in substitution for any type of legal counsel.
Types of Adoptions
Adult adoption - The person being adopted is eighteen years or older and being adopted by someone eighteen years or older (Petitioner). The person being adopted must sign a written consent.
Agency adoption - When birth parents and adoptive families (Petitioners) are matched through a child placement agency that has been licensed by the Department of Social Services. These adoptions may include a family from another county or state.
Independent adoption - Birth parents and adoptive families (Petitioners) find each other on their own or through an adoption intermediary such as a pastor, lawyer, or doctor. The adoption intermediary or adoptive family's attorney facilitates the placement. Thereafter, an agency or deputy juvenile officer conducts interviews and visits for a six month period (or more). An assessment may be filed with the court when the petition is filed or when the adoption is finalized. The deputy juvenile officer, at the direction of the court, oversees the agency and files a summary with the court when the adoption is finalized. The deputy juvenile officer may also visit the home of the adoptive family prior to the finalization (as well as the Guardian ad Litem (G.A.L.)).
Relative adoption - The adoptive family (Petitioners) consists of one or both persons being biologically related to the child. They are seeking the adoption because the child needs someone to assume the responsibility of caring for them for any one of a number of possible reasons.
Stepparent adoption - The adoptive family (Petitioners) consists of one biological parent and a new spouse or "one step parent". For various reasons the "parents" have decided to pursue an adoption.
Regardless of the type of adoption three things must happen: (1) the parent or parents' rights must be terminated, (2) a home study of the prospective adoptive family must be successfully completed, and (3) lawful custody must be obtained.
Please note: if the person being adopted is 14 years or older they must sign a written consent.
Whatever type of adoption your family chooses it should be a situation that is right for everyone involved. It will be the new beginning for the child, the parent(s) and the new family.
As adoption is a legal action, prospective adoptive parents are encouraged to and sometimes ordered by the Court to work closely with an attorney. The lawyer should not only be well versed in Missouri's adoption laws and rules, but also be knowledgeable about local Court practices. Failure to comply with certain laws or rules may jeopardize the adoption.
|Clay County Bar Association
|Kansas City Metropolitan Bar Association
|Missouri Bar (Adoption)
List of forms needed to file for an adoption
Catherine P. "Kitt" Woods, B.A.
Deputy Juvenile Officer / Adoption Specialist
Division of Family Services - Children's Division
7000 West Liberty Drive
Liberty, Missouri 64068
Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children
Community volunteers appointed by the court to advocate in the best interest of abused/neglected children in Clay County, Missouri, and affirm their right to a safe and permanent home.
CASA is a national non-profit organization that was developed in 1976 by Superior Court Judge David Soukup of Seattle, WA. Judge Soukup felt that children who were victims of abuse and neglect needed someone to represent them and be their voice in court. Judge Soukup realized the often these children also become victims of this country’s overburdened child welfare system, a complex legal network of lawyers, social workers and judges who frequently are too busy to give through, detailed attention to each child who comes before them. Many times the victims, who are children, are lost in the overloaded child welfare system that cannot pay close attention to each child whose life is in its hands. Sometimes a child can remain adrift in foster care for months, even years.
That’s where CASA comes in.
CASA volunteers are Court Appointed Special Advocates for children. They are community volunteers who undergo extensive training and are appointed by a judge to speak up for abused and neglected children in court. They become the voice of the child within the judicial system. It has been proven that children who have been assigned CASA volunteers tend to spend less time in court and less time within the foster care system than those who do not have CASA representation. These CASA children also have better chances of finding permanent homes than non-CASA Children.
The Clay County CASA Program was established in Clay County in 1983. Currently the Clay County CASA Program is one of 22 active programs within the state of Missouri. The Clay County has over 85 volunteers who have gone through training and are currently involved in an active case.
What does a C.A.S.A volunteer do?
CASA volunteers are men and women who want to help abused and neglected children in their community. They work for the judge, alongside attorneys, social workers, and the Juvenile Office as appointed officers of the Court. The CASA is required to do their own investigation of the case independent of Children's Division and the Juvenile Office.
The CASA concept is based on the commitment that every child has the right to a safe permanent home. CASA's are assigned to children who are victims of abuse and neglect. By handling only one or two cases at a time (compared to a social agency caseworker's average load of 60-90) the CASA volunteer has the time to explore thoroughly the history or each child they are assigned. The volunteer talks with the child, parents, family members, neighbors, school officials, doctors and others involved in the child's background who might have facts about the case. The CASA volunteer then reviews all records and documents pertaining to the child. He or she then submits a formal report to the court-recommending placement: should the child stay with his or her parents, be placed in foster care, residential care, or be freed for permanent adoption.
What happens when a child is taken into protective custody
A Hotline call or a report is received of an alleged situation where there is possible abuse and neglect.
The Children's Division responds to the Hotline call and investigates the circumstances. They may involve the local police, Deputy Juvenile Officer, or a physician in their investigation. A police officer, Deputy Juvenile Officer, or physician can make the decision whether or not the child is in need of immediate protection. This is when temporary custody of the child is taken. The Juvenile Officer is notified of the situation and the child is placed in foster home care, residential care, or with an appropriate relative or appropriate friend of the family.
A Protective Custody Hearing is generally held, excluding weekends/holidays, within the first 72 hours the child is taken into custody. At this hearing a petition would be presented stating the allegations and the Juvenile Judge decides if there is enough evidence to hold a child until an adjudication/disposition hearing can be held.
At the time the Probable Cause Hearing is held, a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) will be appointed by the Juvenile Judge to conduct an independent investigation to further represent the "best interest of the child".
If the Judge determines that the child needs to be protected, the child will remain in the protective custody of the Juvenile Court, pending a full hearing on the petition. A further investigation is conducted by the Deputy Juvenile Officer to gather evidence to substantiate the allegations of the petition in the interest of the child.
At the adjudication/disposition hearing the Judge of the Juvenile Court considers all evidence and makes the final decision about what should happen concerning the child. (If the allegations of the petition are found true, the Judge will take jurisdiction and make the child a ward of the Court until 17 years of age and then determines the best placement of the child.)
If the child does not return home to the parents, then the Children's Division, CASA and Deputy Juvenile Officer will work with the parents to develop a Written Service Agreement. This agreement contains a list of items the parents must complete (i.e. counseling, parenting classes, anger control classes, drug/alcohol rehabilitation, stable housing and employment, etc.) to be reunited with their child and have the child return home. If the parent completes the Written Service Agreement, efforts are made to send the child home before 17 years of age. Periodic court reviews will be held on each case.
After a reasonable amount of time if the parents have not made progress through the services offered to them and the child has not returned home, a petition may be filed to terminate their parental rights and adoption of the children could then be considered.
When a CASA volunteer is appointed to a child's case, he or she is responsible for taking the time to find out as much as possible about that child. CASA volunteers search for information. They review records, interview parents, talk to teachers, neighbors, and most importantly, the child. The CASA volunteer appointed to a child's case must visit the child at least once per month. The CASA volunteer then appears in court to recommend to the Judge what's best for that child's future.
Juvenile Office Counseling
Counseling services are provided through referral from juvenile officers or partner agencies.
A free four week seminar “Passages for Teens and Parents” is offered periodically throughout the year. Through the use of ancient stories and creative activities, teens are encouraged to develop skills needed for four main passages to adulthood: physical, emotional, mental and social.
Contact David Strabala at 816-736-8405.
David Strabala, LCSW, Juvenile Counselor
David Strabala, LCSW, received his Master of Social Work Degree in 1991 from the University of Iowa. He became the Juvenile Office Counselor in September 2014. He worked mostly with youth previously in community mental health, and has experience in employee assistance programs, traumatic brain injury and on-call crises. He is known for therapeutic storytelling with an African djembe drum, which he uses in various trainings.
ACI Mental Health Crisis Line (24-hour): 1-888-279-8188
Recommended Parenting Books and Audio Resources
How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish
The Five “Love Languages” of Teenagers by Gary Chapman
Screamfree Parenting by Hal Edward Runkel
Raising Children You Can Live With: A Guide to Frustrated Parents by Jamie Raser
What is Restorative Justice?
Restorative Justice is a process to involve those who have a stake in a specific offense, to the extent possible, to collectively identify and address the harms, needs and obligations in order to heal and put things right. (Howard Zehr, 2002)
Guiding Questions of Restorative Justice
- Who has been harmed?
- What are their needs?
- Who has a stake in this situation?
- Who is obligated to repair the harm?
- How is it appropriate, involving stakeholders, to put things right?
Benefits of Restorative Justice
Since 1997 our programs result in greater victim satisfaction, lower re-offenses, increased rate of restitution paid and community service performed, all at a reasonable cost. Services are funded by Clay County and a Juvenile Court Diversion grant from the Missouri Division of Youth Services.
Restorative Justice in Missouri
Approximately one-third of the juvenile courts in Missouri incorporate some restorative principles into their practices. Restorative programs are very successful in reducing recidivism rates (re-offenses). Victims are much more satisfied participating in a restorative justice process, in part because offenders who engage in a restorative justice program are very likely to honor the restitution arrangements they make with their victims (90 to 95% compliance in Clay County). Victims find the process fair, and appreciate having an opportunity to explain the impact of the crime to the offender.
Contact InformationClay County Juvenile Office
351 East Kansas Street
Liberty, Missouri 64068
Programs in Clay County
Community Justice Boards
A Community Justice Board offers the community the opportunity to have an active role in discussing the harm caused by crime and finding a just way to repair the harm. When a victim is unable to directly address an offender, the volunteers serving on the Community Justice Board speak on the victim's behalf.
Boards meet with juvenile officers, offenders, and their parents or guardians to discuss what happened, how individual victims and the community were affected by the offense, and to develop a plan to make things right. In most cases victim and offender are restored as members of the community, crime is decreased, and recurring harm is avoided.
To Become a CJB Volunteer
Volunteers complete an application and background check, and receive training on board policy and procedures. Volunteers determine how often they wish to participate. For more information please contact us.
Respect Program: Victim Dialogue with Offenders
Crime victims have rights under Missouri's state constitution, including notification about the status of a case, and information about their options for collecting restitution, including the Missouri Crime Victims Compensation Fund. Respect helps crime victims to get answers to questions they have about the offense and to seek restitution. A juvenile offender who is willing to take responsibility may then be referred for further screening and a possible meeting with the victim to discuss the harm and how to make things right. These sessions are conducted in safe settings monitored by trained mediators. Restitution arrangements are monitored until completed.
C.A.R.E. Community Service and Restitution Endeavor
This program allows juvenile offenders referred by a juvenile officer to earn money through community service that is paid toward the restitution owed to a crime victim. Several area nonprofit thrift stores are partners in C.A.R.E.
A Referral Guide
The information contained on this page provides a guideline for making complete referrals for violations of compulsory school attendance laws.
Referrals should be made concerning a student whose repeated absence from school continues despite documented efforts by school administration to resolve the attendance problem.
All referrals should be reported to the
Child Abuse Hotline
Reporting And Referral
Prior to calling the Hotline, you should at least have the Non-Attendance Referral Form filled out, as it will assist you in answering the questions you will be asked.
Child Abuse Hotline
The Hotline relays the report to the local Children's Division. The Children's Division will contact the school to discuss the report and request the referral packet.
The Children's Division will then assess to determine if the non-attendance is due to educational neglect or truant behavior beyond control of the parent/guardian.
Cases found to be educational neglect will be handled by the Children's Division with possible referral to the Clay County Children's Justice Center for further assistance.
Cases found to be truant behavior beyond the control of the parent/guardian may be referred to the Clay County Children's Justice Center and will include the referral packet they received from the school. If the Hotline advises the information you provided does not meet criteria to accept a report, then send the referral packet to the Clay County Children's Justice Center.
When making a referral, please remember:
- Suspensions from school will not be considered "absences without justification".
- Absences that are excused by the parent/guardian may be considered unjustified by the school administration if there is reason to believe the absence is not for legitimate reason. Suspicious excused absences and basis for suspicion should be noted in referral packet.
- For intervention by the Children's Division or the Children's Justice Center to be effective, there must be an avenue for reinvolvement of the student in the school program.
- The school official making the referral may be subpoenaed to testify in court. This person will need to be "Keeper of the Records" and bring all records pertaining to the student.
Referral To The Prosecuting Attorney
Referral by the school directly to the Prosecuting Attorney should be made in accordance with district/school policy and as set forth by Missouri Statutes.
The Children's Division or the Clay County Children's Justice Center, upon completion of an investigation, may make a referral to the Prosecuting Attorney when appropriate.
Missouri Revised Statutes - Chapter 167 Compulsory Attendance Law indicates the parent/guardian is clearly responsible for their child's enrollment and attendance in an educational program.
Truancy Brochure (PDF)
These guidelines are meant to address common questions of school districts relating to referrals for lack of school attendance. Questions that remain unanswered, clarification of policy or concerns related to the handling of individual cases may be directed to:
Clay County Children's Division
7000 Liberty Drive
Liberty, Missouri 64068
Clay County Children's Justice Center
351 East Kansas Street
Liberty, Missouri 64068
Guide Provided by
Clay County Children's Division &
Clay County Children's Justice Center
Transitions Center Home
Transitions is a service that provides a trained monitor in a secure location to facilitate court-ordered or court referred supervised visitation between parents and their children. Parent visits with a child are scheduled in one hour sessions each week for a block of eight weeks. Services are provided at the Transitions Center in Liberty, Missouri. Both parents must pre-register to schedule services. Both parents contribute to the fees for visits based on their income and ability to pay.
The Transitions Program began in March 1999 in conjunction with the Office of Dispute Resolution Services. The parents are court ordered or referred to the Visitation center by Family Court, attorneys, Division of Family Services or other agencies or individuals.
On September 18, 2000, a 501 c 3 Not-for-Profit board, "Transitions Family Visitation Center, Inc.", was established as an Advisory Board to review program policies and procedures, aid in fundraising projects, and volunteer recruitment. There are seven Board of Directors, which serve on the Transitions Family Visitation Center, Inc. advisory board.
The program is funded by Clay County Family, Office of State Court Administrators, and fees paid by the parents.Transitions Application: view/print-only PDF or fill-in PDF
Topics of Interest
The Transitions Center provides safe, supervised visits and exchanges between parents and their children under the supervision of a compassionate, trained adult monitor and an off-duty officer who protects the child from any harm, threat or manipulation.
Transitions Program Volunteers
Transitions Pgrogram Volunteers
A Clay County Transitions volunteer is a trained individual that is designated to provide court-referred supervised visitation between a non-custodial parent and the child, so that a healthy relationship can be built between the child and visiting parent.
Qualifications of a Transitions Volunteer
- Interest in children, parents, and their rights and special needs.
- Time to devote to a training session, and a commitment of at least one year.
- Ability to work with children and parents using tact, concern and basic human relations skills.
- Ability to communicate verbally and in-writing…making verbal and written visitation comments, to the Court, to the program director, and other persons as needed.
Requirements of a Transitions Volunteer
- Attend initial training session.
- Agree to supervise at least four parent/child visits a year.
- Agree to show up and supervise the visit at the designated time and location for the eight-week visitation, allowing two hours of their time.
- Observe confidentiality of all information.
- Be available Thursday evenings.
- Report any problems or situations to the Program Director.
- Provide assistance between the child and parent during the visit, if necessary.
Duties of the Transitions Program Director
- Recruit and train new volunteers.
- Provide names, times, locations and case information to the volunteer supervising the visit.
- Assist Transitions Volunteers as needed with visitation problems.
- Notify volunteers of any visitation changes or situations.
- Serve as a liaison for volunteers and supporting.
- Provide on-going training to the volunteer and staff.
- Provide monetary aid to the volunteers when supervising visits that require a cost.
Visitation between the parent and child is completely voluntary by the parents. The parents can be referred to the visitation program three ways: paternity cases, Family Access Motion (parent does not see the child) or Family Court. The child must have experienced limited involvement of one or more of the parents for a period of six months or more.
The visits will be supervised for eight weeks at the same time and location each week for 60 minutes by the same designated volunteer. The parents and Transitions staff will determine the time and location of the visits.
If the parents choose to use this service, both parents will be assessed a one time fee of $50.00 and both parents will pay for each visit based on a sliding fee scale for the 60 minute supervised visit. This fee helps partially cover the administrative, security and visitation costs. The fees must be paid in advanced or the visits will not take place.
**Parents are responsible for payments of the security and visitation fees in advance, unless there are exceptional circumstances that make this unfeasible. Any payment arrangements must be approved by the Program Director in advance.**
Rules and Policies
Rules and Policies
The visits will be supervised once a week for eight (8) weeks at the same time and location each week. Supervised visitation will be for 60 minutes per visit. The parents and Transitions staff will determine the time and location of the visits.
Custodial and non-custodial parents will not come in contact during arrivals and departures of visits. The non-custodial parent will arrive at the visit 15 minutes before the start of the scheduled visit and will stay 15 minutes after the end of the scheduled visit. There will be a 10-minute grace period at the time the visit is to start. If after 10 minutes, one or the other parent has not arrived, the visit will not take place. The custodial parent must be available by phone/pager to pick up their child if an emergency arises or a visits must be cut short for other reasons.
The visiting parent may bring to the visit: snacks or dinner, along with a favorite game, toy or gift if they would like.
The Transitions Volunteer will immediately terminate the visits, if for any of the following reasons happen:
- negative comments made about parents, in-laws, relatives, partners, step-parents, grandparents, siblings or anyone, by any of the parties involved, including the child
- whispering or note passing during the visits
- drug or alcohol use
- threats of kidnapping or parental abduction
- harassment, arguing or verbal abuse
- physical violence
- threats against the court, court orders, attorneys, or Transitions Program staff or volunteers
- no picture taking or audio-visuals are allowed
- no other family members or friends are allowed in the visit
- no cell phones, pagers or pets will be allowed at the visit
Parents/relatives are expected to vacate the premises immediately upon request to do so.
Transitions Program staff or volunteers will not act as a go between, between the parents and child.
No Transitions volunteers or staff will accept or dispense any medication for the child during the 60-minute visit. It will be the responsibility of the custodial parent to give their child medication before the visit begins.
Parents are to call 24 hours in advance to cancel a visit. Only in emergencies should a parent cancel the visit. It will be up to the Transitions Staff to decide if the visit should be rescheduled. Additional costs may be required if visits are cancelled without advance notice.
In the event that parents see one another, they will act civil to each other in front of their child.
Visits will be held for the scheduled time only. If they start early or begin late, the visit will only be for 60 minutes. Upon arrival and leaving each parent must sign in and sign out with the volunteer.
After the last scheduled visitation, it will be the responsibility of both parents and/or their attorneys to come to a mutual agreement about where and when visits between the parent and child take place.
There will be an off duty officer on site at every visit (on a case by case bases). The custodial parent is expected to be off the premises while the visit takes place. The custodial parent may not wait in the lobby or parking lot of the visitation site.
A photograph will be taken of the child and each parent. Photographs will be kept on file for identification.
Before the first visit, a photocopy of each parent's driver's license or other state issued photo will be taken to be kept on file for identification purposes. Each parent will provide a valid driver's license or other state issued photo and present this identification at each visit. Each parent will also provide at each visit a license's plate number and the make and model of the car driven to the visit for identification purposes.
During the provisions of the visits, Transitions staff may require to exam all packages, bags, or containers brought in by the parents and staff may request that parents check in personal property deemed necessary by staff.
Transitions staff are required to write comments or provide detailed observations for each visit, for the court, if necessary.
Programs offered by Transitions Center
The Transitions Family Visitation Center offers two programs to help parents visit their children.
Supervised visitation is a program that allows the non-custodial parent to see his/her child(ren) in a supervised setting. There are many reasons why supervision may be needed such as substance abuse, domestic violence, and allegations of sexual abuse – just to name a few. There is an intake fee and a fee for service for this program. It is helpful if we know ahead of time which parent or party is responsible to pay for these fees; or if both parents or parties are responsible for the payment of fees. Intake interviews are required prior to starting supervised visitations and have a non-refundable fee of $50 for each parent or party to pay. Each parent or party needs to bring his/her last year's income tax return so that a determination of the weekly fee can be made. The weekly fee is determined on a sliding scale basis. If either parent or party cannot or does not produce the tax return, there is an automatic fee of $25 per week. We are currently supervising visits on Wednesday and Thursday evenings in Liberty, MO. There are two sessions offered, 5:30 P.M. - 6:30 P.M. or 7:00 P.M. - 8:00 P.M. We try to work with the parents' schedules when assigning a session to a family, however availability is a factor. Once in the program, visits continue until further order of the Court or by agreement of attorneys.
Safe Exchanges is a program offered to assist parents when dropping off or picking up the children from the other parent for visitation purposes. These are especially helpful for parents with an ExParte Order of Protection and No Contact Orders where one parent cannot legally come in contact with the other parent; or when parents are having problems with being timely and consistent when dropping off and picking up the child(ren) for visitation. There is a $20 non-refundable intake fee for each parent to pay for this program. After that exchanges are free. Parents can sign up for this program voluntarily or they can be court-ordered into the program. The Safe Exchange Program is offered at the following location: R. Kenneth Elliott Children's Justice Center, 351 E. Kansas, Liberty, MO. supervised exchanges are offered Monday and Tuesday 8:00 A.M. – 5:00 P.M., Wednesday and Thursday 8:00 A.M. – 8:00 P.M., Fridays 8:00 A.M. – 7:00 P.M. and Sundays 5:00 P.M. – 7:00 P.M. <%-- At the Kansas City Police Department, North Patrol Division, 1001 NW Barry Road, Kansas City, MO. supervised exchanges are offered Fridays and Sundays 5:00 P.M. – 7:00 P.M.--%>
If you believe either of these programs would be beneficial to you and your family or you have questions or need further information, please contact Mim Simpson at (816) 736-8417.
SAFE Exchange Program
SAFE Exchange Program
SAFE Exchange is a child-friendly monitored exchange program to help parents reduce the stress of custodial exchanges of their children. This is a free service offered by the Transitions Center, Inc. Exchanges take place at a neutral location monitored by a Transitions staff person. Arrival and departure times are staggered so that parents have no direct contact. Children are under the supervision of a person attentive to their needs while at the exchange site. Children are less anxious and more relaxed during departures and arrivals.
Families who benefit from SAFE Exchanges:
- Conflict has been experienced during exchanges
- Parents do not agree on exchange arrangements
- Law enforcement has become involved in exchanges
- Conflict has been experienced during exchanges
- Parents are subject to an order of protection
SAFE Exchange services are free but you must pre-register to be scheduled for exchanges. Contact Transitions Staff at 816-736-8400.
SAFE Exchange services are free but you must pre-register to be scheduled for exchanges.
There is a $20 intake fee per parent.
Contact Transitions Staff at
Transitions SAFE Exchange locations:
- North Kansas City, 1001 N.W. Barry Road, Kansas City
- Children's Justice Center, Liberty
- Children's Justice Center, 351 E. Kansas, Liberty
- Transitions Center, 9 S. Leonard, Liberty