Head of Missouri Children’s Division leaving amid questions about child welfare system

01/10/2014 2:34 PM

01/10/2014 2:34 PM

The director of the Missouri agency that handles child abuse and neglect cases is stepping down.

Candace Shively, 60, will retire from the Children’s Division at the end of the month, according to a memo sent to employees late Thursday by her boss, the acting head of the state Department of Social Services.

Shively’s departure is the second by a top DSS official in four months and comes as the state agency is undergoing a lengthy reaccreditation process. It also comes at a time when several high-profile cases in the Kansas City area have highlighted flaws in the child welfare system.

“Candy has devoted her life’s work to improving the lives of families and children in her home state of Kansas and here in Missouri,” DSS acting director Brian Kinkade said in his memo to the staff. “She has been a strong leader for the Children’s Division and an effective member of the department’s executive team and we will miss her tremendously.”

Melody Yancey, who has been with the agency more than two decades, will serve as acting Children’s Division director while a search is conducted, Kinkade said.

Kinkade replaced Alan Freeman, who resigned in May after less than six months to return to his previous job as president and chief executive officer of Grace Hill Health Centers Inc., a St. Louis nonprofit.

The Children’s Division has been under scrutiny this past year after state officials for months failed to release records on several child tragedies, starting with the case of the little Kansas City girl who was rescued from a locked closet in June 2012.

After pressure from lawmakers, officials released her file to The Star in May. It showed how the state, family court and Kansas City school district failed to protect the girl known as LP.

Records in another case showed that Lucas Barnes Webb, a 4-year-old boy from Holt, Mo., told an adult in August 2012 that his stepmother had kicked him in the stomach when she was mad. Children’s Division workers closed the case on Oct. 10, 2012, five days before Lucas was rushed to a hospital, where he later died of blunt force trauma to the abdomen.

DSS officials said they had reviewed Lucas’ case and determined that staff members violated agency policy. Without elaborating, officials said two employees were no longer working for the agency.

A DSS spokeswoman said Friday that Shively’s departure “was not a surprise to the department.”

“Ms. Shively is a wonderful employee and we are very proud of her accomplishments and wish her the best in her retirement,” spokeswoman Rebecca Woelfel said.

Shively arrived at the Children’s Division in 2010 after serving as an executive with the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services.

While running the Children’s Division, which oversees more than 11,000 children in foster care, Shively also had a business of her own at the Lake of the Ozarks, The Star has learned.

State corporation records show that Shively is the owner of ProStar Real Estate LLC at Lake Ozark, Mo., and documents that Shively filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission show that she receives an income from the business. The company was incorporated in June 2011, nine months after Shively took the state’s top Children’s Division post.

A January 2012 article in the Lake of the Ozarks Business Journal called Shively the real estate company’s managing director.

“We want serious sellers to know who can best manage the sale of their property and make it happen fast,” Shively told the publication.

The Star also has learned that Shively and her husband filed for bankruptcy in June, claiming liabilities of about $1.2 million. The filing said the amount owed was incurred primarily from business debts.

Her current DSS salary is about $105,000, according to state records.

Shively did not respond to an email asking for comment on her departure, her business interests and her bankruptcy.

Yancey has 25 years of service with DSS. She was in Kansas City on Friday to attend a meeting of the Kansas City Child Abuse Roundtable Coalition. Shively was listed on the agenda but didn’t attend. The group learned of Shively’s retirement.

“I can’t imagine anyone better to fill her spot,” said Debby Howland, coordinator of the coalition. “Big shoes, I know.”

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