Missouri court proceedings involving children will be opened to the public beginning today as the state seeks to improve its foster-care system through public scrutiny, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. Lawmakers voted last year to allow the public and news media to sit in on child abuse and neglect cases, in the hope the extra scrutiny would improve the court while giving the public a greater understanding of the largely secretive child-protection system.
The St. Louis Family Court agreed to test the concept by opening its hearings last year. Judge Jack Garvey said he’s seen little effect and added, “Who wants to go into that dark closet. We make tough decisions every day, but the public doesn’t want to be part of it.” The public may not watch when a child is being questioned about abuse. Gary Waint, Missouri director of juvenile and adult court programs, said some judges still opposed the change. He said the pilot program in St. Louis showed the courts won’t be overrun by a flood of spectators.