The Division of Legal Services (DLS) provides comprehensive legal support to all program and support divisions in the Department of Social Services (DSS). DLS represents the Department, its divisions, and the state. DLS does not represent individuals.

DLS is organized into four major sections:

Litigation

The Litigation Section of the Division of Legal Services (DLS) provides legal advice and legal representation to the Department of Social Services and its divisions. It represents the divisions of DSS before administrative tribunals and in the circuit courts. DLS attorneys:

  • Represent the Children's Division in the Juvenile Courts in cases involving abused and neglected children
  • Work with the Children's Division to ensure that children in the foster care system are placed in safe, appropriate and permanent homes
  • File petitions to terminate parental rights on behalf of the Children's Division when appropriate
  • Defend the decisions of the Children's Division in foster care licensure and adoption subsidy cases
  • Defend decisions of the Child Abuse and Neglect Review Board
  • Represent the Division of Youth Services in dual jurisdiction cases
  • Provide other legal services to the Division of Youth Services to assist in restoring young people to leading lives as productive citizens
  • Represent the MO HealthNet Division and the Family Support Division before administrative tribunals
  • Work with DSS program divisions to ensure the privacy of confidential information maintained by the Department

Administrative Hearings

This section is comprised of Hearing Officers who conduct hearings relating to child support enforcement and public benefits under Chapters 208, 454, 536 and 660 RSMo. Administrative hearings include enforcing, establishing and modifying child support orders to ensure the obligation to provide child support is current and reflects the parents' ability to provide financial and medical support to their children in accordance with Supreme Court Rule 88.01.
The Administrative Hearings Sections also provides hearings to thousands of public assistance applicants and recipients as mandated by federal law. These due process hearings provide the forum for determining whether the denial or termination of public benefits was justified. In addition, hearings are provided to elderly persons who face eviction from nursing homes.

Investigations

The mission of the Investigation Section is to enhance the integrity of all public assistance programs by recovering monies improperly paid in cases of fraud and abuse. The Investigation Section is divided into three units:

  • Welfare Investigation Unit (WIU) investigates fraud and abuse committed by public assistance recipients. WIU is divided into five regions:
    • Kansas City
    • St. Louis
    • Jefferson City
    • Springfield
    • Sikeston
  • Claims and Restitution Unit (C&R) operates and manages the Claims Accounting Restitution System (CARS). The CARS system tracks the establishment and collection efforts in all claims in the public assistance programs administered by DSS. The C&R unit also administers the Treasury Offset Program (TOP). The TOP provides for the intercept of individuals' federal income tax returns to satisfy outstanding food stamp overpayments.
  • General Assignment Unit (GAU) handles Personnel Investigations. It is divided into two sub-units: Special Assignment Unit (SAU) and Location and Tracking Unit (LTU).
    • The SAU is responsible for conducting criminal, personnel, and internal investigations to strengthen departmental integrity. This unit also furnishes technical support and investigative assistance to the various DSS divisions in their administration and control of departmental programs.
    • The LTU locates persons owing monies to the Department of Social Services, as well as other state agencies, identifies their resources, initiates collection actions, monitors payments and takes appropriate action on delinquent accounts. This unit also conducts background investigations and the associated research in support of DSS investigations, as well as background checks on prospective DSS employees.

State Technical Assistance Team

The State Technical Assistance Team (STAT) performs duties related to child fatality review and provides assistance to multidisciplinary teams and local law enforcement agencies in investigating and prosecuting child sexual abuse cases. The STAT Unit helps to safeguard Missouri's children against abuse and neglect, including sexual abuse, by providing technical assistance and training to child fatality review panels throughout the state as well as assisting in the investigation and prosecution of child sexual abuse cases.