Missouri Governor Mel Carnahan died tragically in an airplane crash on October 16, 2000. He will forever be remembered as a tireless advocate for children. The St. Louis Post Dispatch may have said it best: "The Governor's death is a blow to all Missourians, but especially for children."
Governor Carnahan's Outstanding Schools Act of 1993 raised $315 million for education and made school funding fairer. This act fully funded the nationally acclaimed Parents as Teachers Program for in-home services for parents of infants and pre-school children, allowing them the opportunity to acquire and improve parenting skills. It specifically targeted child abuse and neglect prevention.
Under his leadership, sweeping changes were made to revise the child abuse and neglect laws to allow a dual response to reports of maltreatment. The dual-track system provides for investigation of reports of serious physical and sexual abuse and an assessment process that focuses on the prevention of child abuse when a family is in crisis. Through recent legislation supported by Governor Carnahan, child pornography laws were established to engage law enforcement, and authority was broadened for the Child Fatality Review Panels to review child deaths.
Governor Carnahan and the First Lady Jean Carnahan recognized that children's learning and development is influenced in the first critical months and years of life. Because child abuse and neglect in those early years can have negative and long-term effects in children's lives, Governor Carnahan's early childhood initiatives included training and certification programs for early childhood teachers and caregivers and increased child care funding for working parents.
Governor Carnahan expanded the popular 21st Century Communities to Caring Communities sites that engage local citizens with state agencies to ensure that six core results in their communities improve for children and families. They include working parents, safe children and families, healthy children and families, children prepared to enter school, children and young adults' success school, and young adults prepared to enter productive adulthood.
He made Missouri safer from gun violence when he and his daughter led a high-profile campaign preventing ordinary citizens from carrying concealed weapons.
Governor Carnahan's commitment to children has been memorialized through the many thousands of dollars contributed in his name to the Children's Trust Fund. The Fund is a non-profit child abuse and neglect agency that provides grants to local service agencies that encourage services to prevent child abuse and neglect.