ST. PETERS, Mo. – Six months have passed since historic flash flooding slammed much of the St. Louis metropolitan area.  

One group of Lutheran Christian servants spent part of the weekend helping people in a St. Peters subdivision repair their homes.

Patrick Bales and his wife Brianna have lived in the Copperfield neighborhood along Barrington Drive for seven years. When their basement flooded after historic rainfall last summer, they salvaged what they could and put their valuables in the garage.

“Due to the overflow of the sewer, we had probably about 12 to 18 inches in our basement,” said Bales. “We ended up losing all of our appliances, and a lot of computers and stuff like that down there, because that was kind of our gaming nerd space.”

They lost appliances like their water heater, HVAC unit and washer/dryer. However, they are getting help replacing them thanks to a group with the Lutheran Early Response Team.

Ryan Taylor is a pastor at Immanuel Lutheran Church and School in St. Charles. He learned about the homes impacted after several of his congregation members experienced flooding.

“It’s all the work of volunteers who just want to come out and do this,” said Taylor. “We don’t contract anything out, and the group of guys and gals who are out here doing this just want to do it. They come out every day with joy, and they’re so thankful to be able to do something like this on behalf of their neighbors here in St. Peter’s.” 

“There has been about 75 different volunteers over the six months that have been here from four different states and 13 different Lutheran churches,” said Chris Schult, volunteering with LERT.

Since July’s historic flooding, water from a nearby creek entered dozens of homes in the Copperfield subdivision alone. Since then, volunteers have been able to raise more than $60,000 to make repairs in over 60 homes.

“We use that grant money for buying drywall and tools and other material and lunches and water and everything it takes behind the scenes to be able to do something like this,” Schult said.

Repairs will continue for the next couple weeks as the group finishes up the final ten homes on their list.

“It’s just been a wonderful act of mercy that we’ve been able to do for all of these people out here who really may not have had the means to, to fix anything that they had,” Taylor said.

“I am so grateful to the Lutheran Church. They’ve helped out so many houses in our neighborhood,” said Bales.


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BALLWIN, Mo. – More than 100 people volunteered Saturday with Islamic Relief USA in an effort to alleviate hunger in the St. Louis area.

The nonprofit teamed up with the Muslim Youth of St. Louis to pack up 25,000 meals this weekend at the Daar-UI-Islam Gymnasium in Ballwin.

The goal is to help provide nutritious, nonperishable food to populations in need, regardless of race, gender, or creed.

Islamic Relief USA programs benefit millions of people each year across 40 countries worldwide. For more information on the program, click here.


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DENVER (AP) — Alex Newhook scored on his birthday for the second straight season, and the Colorado Avalanche beat the St. Louis Blues 4-2 on Saturday for their seventh win in eight games.

Evan Rodrigues, J.T. Compher and Matt Nieto also scored for Colorado, and Logan O’Connor had two assists. Alexandar Georgiev stopped 26 shots.

The Avalanche had won six in a row before Thursday night’s 5-3 loss to lowly Anaheim. But the reigning Stanley Cup champions bounced back nicely in their final game before their bye week and the NHL All-Star break.

The banged-up Avalanche (27-18-3) could get some key players back after they return. Defensemen Josh Manson and Bowen Byram have been sidelined with lower-body injuries, but they have started skating in non-contact jerseys.

Ivan Barbashev and Brayden Schenn scored for St. Louis (23-24-3) in its fourth consecutive loss. Jordan Binnington made 27 saves.

The Blues were without second-leading scorer Robert Thomas, who left Thursday’s loss at Arizona with a lower-body injury.

Newhook, who turned 22 Saturday, scored his 12th of the season and third in the last four games at 9:22 of the first period.

Compher made it 2-0 when he scored on a rebound at 11:36, and Rodrigues made it 3-0 with his 11th goal 4:48 into the second.

Schenn scored on the power play at 16:27 of the second to get St. Louis on the board. Barbashev trimmed Colorado’s lead to 3-2 when he scored on a partial breakaway at 9:40 of the third. It was Barbashev’s ninth of the season.

Binnington came off for an extra skater with 1:26 left and Nieto scored into the empty net with 2.7 seconds left, his ninth of the season.


Avalanche RW Valeri Nichushkin missed his second straight game with an upper-body injury. … With Thomas sidelined, Nikita Alexandrov centered St. Louis’ fourth line after being recalled from the minors. … The Blues have lost four or more games in a row three times this year.


Blues: At Winnipeg on Monday.

Avalanche: At Pittsburgh on Feb. 7.


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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The Missouri Department of Conservation is thinking about getting rid of permits and fees for commercial photographers in state parks and conservation areas after hearing complaints from the public.

Since 2020, photographers and videographers have been required to purchase a permit to shoot in areas managed by the MDC if their activities result—directly or indirectly—in financial gain or profit. Previously, such activities were prohibited at state parks and the like.

The photography permit cost $100 per year, while the video permit carried a $500 fee per day.

The MDC says it received “considerable public feedback” that the permit costs and fees were too much for “hobby” photographers and videographers.

This past December, the Missouri Conservation Commission approved the MDC’s proposal to eliminate the permits and fees. However, the regulation changes would still require Special Use Permits from the MDC under the following circumstances:

  • Access during closed hours or to portions of the area closed to public use;
  • Use of an unmanned aerial system (UAS) or drone;
  • Use of props, sets, or equipment that are more than a single person can carry; or
  • More than 10 people will be participating in the activity over the course of the day.

The public will be able to leave feedback online about these proposed changes from Feb. 2 to March 3 at

On March 14, the commission will hold a public meeting to give final consideration to the proposal. If approved, the new regulations would take effect July 1.


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COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Kobe Brown scored 20 points, and D’Moi Hodge scored 17 points to help Missouri beat No. 12 Iowa State 78-61 in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge on Saturday.

“To have a quad one win in January is very important,” Missouri coach Dennis Gates said. “I think that’s a two, a possible one-seed team. For us to have that quad one victory is very important, not only on Selection Sunday, but just for us in our growth to recognize who we are and also the confidence that we have in one another.”

Brown scored 14 of his points in the first half and led Missouri (16-5) with 12 rebounds. Nick Honor added 12 points and DeAndre Gholston scored 10.

“They had seven offensive rebounds, he had five of them,” Iowa State coach T.J. Otzelberger said about Brown. “He asserted his dominance, and he stepped up. He’s a tough matchup. He’s a hard cover, but I’d say more than that was how aggressive he was and his intent. His mindset was really impressive, so he certainly led that charge for them here.”

Jaren Holmes led Iowa State (15-5) with 19 points, and Gabe Kalscheur added 14.

“They came out with a lot of confidence,” Otzelberger said about Missouri. “They shot the ball well early which allowed them to get their press set and put us on our heels a little bit more. I give all the credit to Missouri.”

Missouri made 47% of its 30 3-point attempts, while Iowa State shot 40% from long range. Iowa State outrebounded Missouri 38-25, but the Tigers negated the advantage on the glass by scoring 20 points off 19 Cyclones turnovers.

“Our guys forced a great team to 19 turnovers,” Gates said. “Kobe Brown was unbelievable as it relates to rebounding. D’Moi Hodge was elite at deflections and steals and different things like that.”

The Tigers’ 78 points were a season-high for an Iowa State opponent in regulation; the Cyclones are 0-3 this season when allowing at least 70 points in regulation.

The Tigers led 42-32 at halftime and trailed for just 44 seconds in the entire contest.

Holmes hit a 3 with 9:22 remaining in the first half to give Iowa State a 21-20 lead. Isiaih Mosley followed with a 3 of his own just eight seconds later to give Missouri the lead for good.


The Tigers improved to 151-86 all-time against Iowa State — the most against any Missouri opponent. Missouri wore throwback uniforms on Saturday from 1973-1996, when they were in the Big 8.


Iowa State guard Caleb Grill missed the game with a stiff back.

“We’re going to do what’s in Caleb’s best interest, to be healthy and to be able to play at his best.” Otzelberger said. “We’re in this profession for young people and developing them and doing the right thing and being leaders and that falls on my shoulders, and I’m going to continue to do that.”


Iowa State: Three of the Cyclones’ five losses this season have come against unranked foes. Iowa State lost its only other nonconference road contest at Iowa 75-56 on Dec. 8.

Missouri: The Tigers have made 169 of 436 3-pointers (39%) in wins and 25 of 116 (22%) in their losses.


Iowa State: At Texas Tech on Monday night.

Missouri: Hosts LSU on Wednesday night.


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ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. – Authorities are confirming that 48-year-old Julian Jones Sr. is jailed Sunday morning on a $150,000 cash-only bond.

Jones had been the subject of a search after at large charges were issued against him back on January 20. St. Louis County Police said Jones turned himself in at the St. Louis County Justice Center Saturday, January 28, and was taken into custody without incident.

Jones was charged with second-degree statutory rape. Investigators explained Jones had sex with a girl under 17 years old.

Authorities told FOX 2 that the victim became pregnant from the encounter and had a child. In investigators, DNA was taken from the victim and Jones, and paternity testing indicates that Jones is the father.

Jones was featured on at least one large billboard along I-270 in north county while authorities were looking for him. Police shared that during the search for Jones that he had connections to St. Louis and O’Fallon, Illinois.

The St. Louis County Police Department’s Crimes Against Persons detectives are leading this investigation. You’re urged to call police if you have any information.

FOX 2 will update this story with more information as it becomes available.


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ST. LOUIS – The St. Louis Jewish Community Center’s biannual used book sale starts Sunday, January 29.

Preview Day starts at 10:00 a.m. with a $10 admission. Free admission begins Monday, January 30.

The hours are from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Monday through Wednesday. On Tuesday, customers can fill a bag for $5 between 10:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. That will be the last day of the book sale.

They have every genre you can imagine – including mysteries, fiction, non-fiction and children’s books.


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ST. LOUIS – Two women, Allison Cousins and Riley Foster, recently launched a new St. Louis-based dating app.

The app is called Approach Dating, also the name of the start-up company from Cousins and Foster. What makes their dating app different than others on the market is that they host many meet-up events. There are several planned over the next few weeks.

Their key demographic is single young professionals who may have moved to the St. Louis area for a new job. The app is now available via Apple and Google Play. For more information, click here.


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ST. LOUIS – Mama Lucia’s Pizza and 4 Hands Brewing Co. are widely known for their frozen pizzas inspired by St. Louis foods and restaurants. However, the pandemic caused a halt in sales.

Both eateries have recently announced that three new pizzas, made in collaboration with even more local spots, have been added to their menus:

  • Cheeseburger-inspired pizza from Hi-Pointe Drive-In – includes bacon, a brewery crust, cheeseburger sauce, cheddar and mozzarella, hamburger, tomatoes, and onions
  • Chicken tikka masala pizza from India’s Rasoi – includes a naan-like dough and tikka masala sauce, chicken, mozzarella, onions, and peppers
  • Gyro pizza from Michael’s Bar & Grill – has gyro meat, mozzarella, red onions, tomatoes, and Tzatziki sauce

President of Mama Lucia’s Scott Ashby, shared the intentions behind the collaborations.

“[When] this thing started off, it was going to be kind of like craft beers, [rotating] in restaurants over time.”

The newly-crafted pies can be found in the Diebergs and Schnucks markets. 4 Hands Brewing Co. and Mama Lucia’s Pizza gave out free some slices Saturday from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.


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The director of Missouri’s child welfare agency told lawmakers this week that the state has “effectively legally orphanized” around 1,500 children.

Those children have had their legal ties to their biological parents severed — by a court, in what’s called termination of parental rights — but the social services agency had no adoptive parents ready to take their place. 

They wait, in foster care, to be adopted or age out of the system.

“If you know anybody who wants to adopt a child, an older child who’s got that situation, let us know, because those kids need to be moved on,”  Darrell Missey, director of Children’s Division,  told lawmakers at a House budget subcommittee hearing for the Department of Social Services.

Those “orphanized” children, in limbo, are part of the broader issue Missey laid out for lawmakers: Too many kids enter foster care, and once entangled in the system, they linger. 

There are more than 13,300 kids in foster care in Missouri — which includes placement settings such as temporary care with relatives, traditional foster families with strangers and group residential homes.

Only around 45% of foster children returned home safely to their parents within 12 months in 2021, the most recently available data — far below the federal benchmark of 75%.

The state removes children at a rate nearly twice the national average, even when accounting for poverty, according to the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform.

The reason, Missey said, is twofold. 

At the front-end, Missouri does too little to prevent kids from entering foster care in the first place, he said, and at the back-end, there are too few resources to move foster kids to stable, permanent homes.

Often, when kids come into care, Missey said, it’s a result of “poverty, mental illness, and addiction.

“If you put services on the front end to prevent those things from getting to a place where a child had to be removed, that’s a much better expenditure of money,” he said, adding that each child in foster care costs the state around $25,000 per year.

“It more than pays for itself over time,” Missey said, of prevention efforts.

Social services leadership pitched lawmakers on a new philosophy to “rebuild and reform” Children’s Division, as part of the overall agency’s budget proposal for next year which features funding 100 new Children’s Division staff as “phase one.”

State Rep. Sarah Unsicker, D-Shrewsbury, who sits on the committee which heard the social services budget, said in an interview with The Independent the preventative services outlined in the budget are “definitely a step forward, but I think a lot more needs to be done.”

In the hearing, she pointed to the limited funding for a crisis program, which is designed to provide temporary child care relief for parents facing crisis, to avoid their children being taken into foster care. 

DSS leadership said the issue is that the providers for that program are limited, so they didn’t request a funding increase. 

“[Missey is] asking for what he is hoping he can get right now,” Unsicker said in an interview. 

Unsicker also pointed to a need to bolster Missouri’s social safety net more broadly. Because poverty is often conflated with child neglect, ensuring adequate housing assistance is available, for instance, could prevent children from being taken out of their homes for their poor living conditions, Unsicker said — although that wouldn’t be in DSS’s direct purview.

Missey said he hopes this is the beginning of a shift in the department’s priorities for years to come.

“I’ve had people already ask me, ‘Do they think this is enough?’” Missey said, “And as I’ve explained to people, this is just the first step.”

He added, “I think it’s going to lead to great practice once we can get there.” 

‘Phase one’

Robert Knodell, acting director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, addresses a group of state employees on May 24, 2021 (photo: Missouri Governor’s Office).

One challenge of having so many kids in state care is that it requires a lot of staff to manage them, which Missouri’s Children’s Division does not have, causing unmanageable caseloads, low morale, and high turnover rates and vacancies. 

As “just phase one” of the plan to reform the department, Missey said, the department hopes to hire 100 more staff, using part of the $22 million Gov. Mike Parson recommended be allocated to the division in his budget proposal last week for “Children’s Division Reconstruction and Reform.”

Missey said that phase is “completely dependent” on the legislature enacting the governor’s recommendation to increase state workers’ pay across-the-board by 8.7%, so they can fill those positions and retain existing staff.

The starting salary for an entry-level Children’s Division worker now, with a cost-of-living boost from the governor last year, plus a 10% boost Children’s Division allocated to caseworkers from their vacancy-related savings, is $39,390.96.

With the 8.7% raises, Missey said, Missouri will “approach” the average salaries of the surrounding states’ child welfare workers, but not meet it.

“Approaching it is far better than we are now, which is nowhere near it.”

Missey said the real number of new employees they need is much higher: they have around 1,800 workers in the agency but by some estimates, need closer to 3,400, primarily to handle the large foster care caseload. To be on par with neighboring Arkansas, Missey said, they would need 1,000 more workers than they currently have.

“I’m not asking for 1,000 people,” Missey said. 

‘This job is impossible’: High turnover, low morale plague Missouri child welfare agency

Missey said for the additional 100 staff, the general idea would be to use them in one of two ways: to “increase efficiencies for everybody with regard to the work they do now” — meaning to lower existing caseloads — “and the other is to further the work we do toward prevention,” he added.

The new workers would be utilized “in a way designed to bring the number of kids in care down,” Missey said, although he also said the department is still working “to piece that together” and not “count our chickens before they’ve hatched.” 

The state has shrunk most of its prevention-oriented workforce, called Family Centered Service workers. Those staff are called in when the state has concerns that don’t rise to the level of removing the child — but most have been moved away from that work, to cover child abuse and neglect investigations and foster care case management because of staffing issues, Missey said at the hearing. The number of open Family Centered Service cases has dropped over the last five years, according to DSS’s annual reports. 

Longer-term, reducing the number of kids in care could allow more staff to be moved to prevention work, Missey said.

Parson cut 96 jobs from Children’s Division in 2020, citing COVID-related declining revenue, though they were mostly supervisors and mid-level management rather than frontline workers. 

The same month, former director Jennifer Tidball turned down a Senate committee’s offer to help staff more positions

During the Senate Appropriations Committee hearing Tuesday, Chairman Lincoln Hough, R-Springfield, noted that the governor is asking for 100 new employees in the Children’s Division even though the division turned down 50 that year.

“What has changed from when we tried to add 50 positions and were told they were not needed?” Hough asked.

Budget Director Dan Haug answered: “We have new leadership over there that has taken a fresh look at it.”

Robert Knodell took over as acting Department of Social Services director in October 2021. Soon after, Missey stepped down as a circuit judge in Jefferson County to become head of Children’s Division.

Missey said eventually, he may try to target the new prevention-oriented staff to the geographic areas with the highest rates of foster children in care.

“Should we target those people there and do it all at once? If we did it all at once, this would be much bigger,” Missey said, adding that if the legislators decide Children’s Division needs more workers faster, “we would take them.”

With the governor’s recommendations, Knodell said, he believes that “will make our child service worker salaries more competitive.”

“But ultimately the solution to our problem is really more prevention,” Knodell later continued, “and fewer children having to come into care.” 



Richard Wexler, executive director of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform, has disagreed with Missey’s emphasis on hiring more workers, arguing instead that the best preventative services would include providing emergency help directly to families. 

By email, Wexler said he believes Missey’s new plans continue to be misguided. 

“All those new hires will only wind up widening the net of needless intervention into families,” Wexler said, “and you’ll get the same lousy system only bigger.”

Instead of spending money to hire 100 more people, Wexler said the funds should be directed into “emergency concrete help for families: Child care aid, rent subsidies, one-time emergency cash.”

And those funds, he argued, should be administered by community-based, community-run organizations.

“That would significantly reduce cases in which poverty is confused with neglect,” Wexler said.

“Instead of increasing the supply of caseworkers, reduce the demand for caseworkers by directly helping families.”

‘Return on investment’

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson delivered his annual State of the State Address on Jan. 18, 2023, where he recommended $22 million in funding for Children’s Division Reconstruction and Reform (Tim Bommel/Missouri House Communications).

The budget would provide a slight boost to existing contracted preventative services, through a rate increase for third party providers — but Missey indicated more significant prevention efforts would come down the line, once the bare minimum workforce needs were met and more Children’s Division staff could be shifted to prevention work.

The governor recommended rate increases of 13% for contracted providers, DSS officials explained, which would include a handful of contractors who provide preventative services now.

Children’s treatment services includes contractors who provide mental health assessments, parent aide and education services, and the home-based crisis intervention program to keep families together, called intensive in-home services. 

Intensive in-home services, which consists of weeks-long intensive support for qualifying families when a child is at immediate risk of being removed, often including help connecting the family with community resources, generally has fewer openings than demand and served around 1,500 families in 2021. 

In 2021, the latest state data, 19 children were not accepted to intensive in-home services due to a lack of openings and were then placed in state custody. 

Chief Financial Officer of DSS Patrick Luebbering said the children’s treatment services providers have not received a rate increase since 2007 and many of the services “are prevention — this is where we want to put more bang for the buck, to keep kids out of care.”

With the governor’s proposed rate increase, the budgeted amount for children’s treatment services would increase from $22.9 million to $25.5 million, though the budget did not break down the spending for intensive in-home services specifically.

Another preventative program, called crisis care, is composed of short term emergency placement so that, Missey said, “where the parents can’t take care of the child, that child doesn’t necessarily have to come into foster care.”

Unsicker questioned whether the roughly $2 million allocated to crisis care in the budget is sufficient.

“You’re putting so much emphasis on prevention, and putting more money into prevention,” Unsicker said at this week’s budget hearing, “and I’m just looking at this and it’s $2 million, which is not a whole lot in the scope of our budget.”

Missey said that it’s also a question of whether current providers “are available to use that money,” and said they should have conversations with places like the crisis nursery center in St. Louis to ask whether they can expand.

Luebbering added that the crisis services are limited and specific services and they haven’t been fully expended them the last few years, and that “if we were thinking we were needing more money here, we probably would’ve requested.” 

“We’re trying to look at what other prevention type services out there that we need to build up,” Luebbering said, through Family First.

The Family First Prevention Services Act, enacted by Congress in 2018, set out to provide federal funds focused on prevention resources, and to reduce the use of congregate homes for foster youth, also called residential treatment facilities. 

So you take my kid, you put him in foster care, you pay the foster parents money. What if I needed that and if I had that money, then my kid would no longer be neglected and you would have never taken them?

– Rep. Deb Lavender (D-Kirkwood)

The state has been appropriated the same roughly $10 million to spend to develop new programs for Family First every year since fiscal year 2020. They have, as of last fiscal year, spent just under $300,000 of that now $10.8 million. Missey and Luebbering said they hope to spend more this year. 

Rep. Deb Lavender, D-Kirkwood, who is on the subcommittee that heard this budget this week, said at the hearing she agreed with the shift toward prevention.

Lavender questioned whether the money the state pays for foster care could be better spent given to the family itself, to avoid neglect claims rooted in poverty.

“So you take my kid, you put him in foster care, you pay the foster parents money. What if I needed that and if I had that money, then my kid would no longer be neglected and you would have never taken them?” Lavender asked.

Missey said it’s a question he often had when he served as a judge. 

“The definition of neglect is so broad you could drive a truck through it,” Missey said. “And so it’s philosophically exactly the right question to ask, particularly as we move forward to shift the nature of this.” 

In an interview, Lavender said the 13% increase for contractors plus 100 new workers is a “good place to start,” and that she was encouraged by the direction of the department under Director Missey, and understood the department may not be able to use a massive increase in preventative funding abruptly, without this transition. 

Rep. Michael O’Donnell, R-Oakville, said at the hearing that he appreciated the discussion of “return on investment,” meaning what the state spends on foster care now versus what it could spend investing in prevention. 

“I love the fact that you guys actually have a vision that says we’re going to reduce the number of kids in foster care,” O’Donnell said. “It’s going to have a fiscal impact on the entire state budget.”



Missouri Independent is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Missouri Independent maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Jason Hancock for questions: Follow Missouri Independent on Facebook and Twitter.


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