After 10 years as the head of the state agency investigating complaints against the Missouri Children’s Division, Kelly Schultz’s last day of work will be November 30.
In an interview on Wednesday morning, Schultz declined to comment on the circumstances of her sudden departure or on who Governor Mike Parson has chosen to replace her as director of the Office of the Children’s Advocate. She was originally appointed to this position in 2011 and has served in three administrations.
“I love the Children’s Advocate’s office and its mission, and I wish the next director nothing but success,” said Schultz.
Kelli Jones, spokesperson for the governor’s office, did not respond to a request for comment. Several people familiar with the decision say they expect the governor to announce that state representative Becky Ruth will take over from Schultz.
Ruth, a retired Jefferson County real estate agent and teacher, could not immediately be reached for comment. The director position earns approximately $ 75,000 per year.
The change in leadership comes at a time when the state’s social services department, which oversees the Children’s Division, is under close scrutiny by lawmakers.
On Tuesday, the department’s acting director, Robert Knodell, told a legislative committee his agency was facing challenges. “who can’t wait. ”
The department has faced stiff criticism in recent months for its handling of allegations of abuse and neglect in unlicensed boarding schools and its failure to notify authorities when foster children are reported missing.
Schultz raised public concerns about the department, saying last month that “A perfect storm” of factors have contributed to the current situation of the department, including a high turnover of department directors, changes in department models, the pandemic and budget cuts.
“Frankly,” Schultz said last month, “I think we have an agency under duress.”
In an interview on Wednesday morning, Schultz said she was happy there was a transition period where she could work with the new manager before she left on November 30.
“I have been in this Capitol since 1999 and executive transitions are unfortunately something that state government does not achieve most of the time,” she said. “I am very happy that there is a transition.
Sudden, usually unexplained departures have become commonplace in Parson’s administration over the past year, with three cabinet members fired without warning or public explanation since April. Last month, the head of the Administration Office, which oversees government procurement and procurement, was asked to resign with immediate effect.
Representative Keri Ingle, Lee’s Summit Democrat and former children’s division investigator, said the state has been fortunate to have Schultz in the Children’s Advocate’s office for the past decade.
“I am so grateful for the years she has dedicated her life to the betterment of all the children of Missouri,” she said. “Her legacy will be the work she did to improve the child welfare system and make sure children in Missouri are safe.”
There is a lot of unrest within the social services department, said Ingle, which makes it difficult to change leadership in such a large office.
“But there is never really a perfect time for this time of change,” said Ingle. “I am looking forward to working with the new manager. “
Schultz, who declined to say what she plans to do next, said she was proud of the things the office accomplished during her tenure.
“I love the Office of the Children’s Advocate with all my heart. “