Head of Missouri’s social services agency resigns

After less than six months on the job, the director of the Missouri Department of Social Services resigned Monday.

Gov. Jay Nixon announced Alan Freeman’s move in a news release, saying the director will return to his position as president and chief executive officer of Grace Hill Health Centers Inc., a nonprofit in St. Louis. Nixon named Freeman to the post in December.

Nixon plans to name Brian Kinkade, DSS’ deputy director, as acting director when Freeman’s resignation takes effect on May 31.

“I greatly appreciate Alan’s leadership and service to the state of Missouri, and his tireless commitment to improving the health of Missouri’s most vulnerable citizens,” Nixon said. “Returning to Grace Hill will allow Alan to continue to serve our state and pursue his passion for providing quality, affordable health care to families in need.”

The social services agency has been under pressure in recent weeks over failure to release records involving child tragedies.

After years of routinely disclosing records, the department made a swift reversal after a 10-year-old Kansas City girl was found locked in a closet last June. Despite months of requests from The Star, DSS officials refused to release information in that case and in several that followed.

State law allows the release of information about a child death or near fatality, but the decision is at the sole discretion of the DSS director.

Laura Bauer and Judy L. Thomas, The Star