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Missouri's former child advocate has a new job, but she isn't straying far from a mission of supporting the state's youth.

Kelly Schultz has accepted a position as director of policy and partnerships with the Missouri State Alliance of YMCAs.

YMCA is one of the leading nonprofits in the United States dedicated to youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. It's 2,700 facilities reach 22 million people around the country.

"I grew up playing basketball at the Springfield Downtown YMCA with my dad being the coach," Schultz said in a news release. "The Y is a vital provider of safety, health and wellness for children and families across the state through its many programs and is often the community hub for services in more than 70 communities across Missouri. Joining the YMCA team was not only a natural fit for my career, it is like coming home."

Schultz was most recently director of the Office of Child Advocate. She announced she was stepping down from the position earlier this month. She has served as Missouri's child advocate through three administrations after being appointed by Gov. Jay Nixon in 2011. Her last day is Nov. 30.

Schultz's departure from the Missouri Department of Social Services was sudden and without explanation. The department has faced heavy scrutiny over the past year for a variety of issues, including its lack of oversight in abuse and neglect allegations at unlicensed boarding schools, failure to report missing foster care children and high turnover among front-line staff positions.

Last month, Schultz raised concerns about the department in a public hearing, calling DSS an "agency in duress."

Patricia Miller, chief executive officer of the Missouri State Alliance of YMCAs, said she is excited to welcome Schultz, who she said will elevate the nonprofit's advocacy and equity work statewide.

At the alliance, Schultz will join Ken Hussey, director of government relations, and associate director Stephanie Smith to advance the organization's policy agenda.

"We have a robust policy agenda that includes child protection and safety programs, but also highlights the shortage of affordable and accessible childcare options, food security and evidence-based healthy living programs," Hussey said in a news release. "As Missouri's largest childcare provider, our Ys are positioned to serve communities through workforce development and sustain our economic recovery.

"Kelly will grow our capacity to advocate for Missouri's children and families and strengthen our statewide partnerships," he said.

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