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Mississippi foster care system fails many measures

MGN Online

The stage is set for a long-delayed showdown over whether a federal judge should appoint an outsider to run Mississippi's Department of Child Protective Services, after a report Tuesday showed the state's foster care system still isn't meeting standards outlined in a court decree.

Posted: Jun 12, 2019 1:36 PM

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — The stage is set for a long-delayed showdown over whether a federal judge should appoint an outsider to run Mississippi's Department of Child Protective Services, after a report Tuesday showed the state's foster care system still isn't meeting standards outlined in a court decree.

At stake is the welfare of nearly 5,000 children who have been taken into state custody because they're believed to be in danger at home.

Marcia Lowry, the lawyer who has been suing the state for 15 years on behalf of a girl known only as Olivia Y, said she intends to ask Senior U.S. District Judge Tom Lee to find the state in contempt of a previous settlement order.

"I think the facts are very bad and I don't think the state can be trusted because kids are being hurt," she told The Associated Press in a phone interview. Lowry said she would file a renewed motion for contempt in coming days.

Department leaders, though, said they're making progress, adding an infusion of $15 million in state funding beginning July 1 will allow them to solve many problems.

"Much good is about to bear fruit in terms of greatly improved services to children," Commissioner Jess Dickinson, a former state Supreme Court justice, said in a statement.

Even Dickinson, though, agreed Mississippi hasn't reached its latest set of goals in the case. The outside monitor, in an 80-page report, found Mississippi met only 37 of the 113 standards, while it wasn't complying with 35. The monitor couldn't determine if the state was meeting 31 other standards, often because data isn't available in the state's computer system or because department employees didn't correctly enter data.

One big issue remains caseloads. Under the settlement, the state agreed to limit the number of cases any social worker was handling, as well as the number of social workers each supervisor oversees. By now, 90% of social workers were supposed to have low enough caseloads to meet standards, but the monitor said that was true for only 57% of workers in the last three months of 2018. Of supervisors, 79% met the five-worker limit.

The report also questioned whether the state is doing enough to investigate reports of mistreatment of children in foster care. The report cites a number of cases of mistreatment that the agency failed to react to, including children who were beaten and sexually abused. Lowry also cited the recent death of a Natchez 4-year-old and injury to her younger sister in a case where Child Protective Services had investigated and opened a case but failed to take the children into custody.

Overall, the report found that 1.15% of children in foster care last year, or 95 of about 8,000, were mistreated. Mississippi had agreed to meet a lower standard of 0.33%, or 27 children mistreated.

Lee Ann Brandon, a spokeswoman for Child Protective Services, said the inability to measure many outcomes still relates to the state's outdated computer system. When Dickinson took over, he froze efforts to set up a new one. Those efforts are supposed to begin again on July 1, using $10 million of the additional $15 million in state money, to be matched with $10 million of federal money.

That project is now supposed to be complete by mid-2020, if state lawmakers provide enough money in the 2019 session.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 15523

Reported Deaths: 734
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds100625
Lauderdale73862
Madison72423
Scott65012
Neshoba64639
Jones62928
Forrest56438
DeSoto5427
Rankin4398
Holmes42928
Leake42712
Copiah3124
Jackson30813
Attala29817
Yazoo2814
Newton2714
Leflore26431
Lincoln26329
Harrison2587
Monroe25725
Oktibbeha23912
Lamar2385
Lowndes2119
Pearl River20931
Wayne2041
Pike20311
Adams19915
Noxubee1866
Washington1787
Warren17310
Covington1652
Jasper1634
Bolivar16211
Lee1536
Smith15211
Kemper14411
Clarke14418
Lafayette1364
Chickasaw13512
Coahoma1254
Carroll11711
Winston1171
Marion1159
Clay1124
Claiborne1112
Lawrence1021
Simpson1010
Tate941
Grenada943
Yalobusha935
Hancock9111
Wilkinson889
Itawamba877
Montgomery851
Sunflower843
Union835
Marshall833
Jefferson Davis773
Tippah7311
Panola713
Webster692
Calhoun654
Amite641
Humphreys607
Walthall560
Tunica553
Prentiss533
Perry503
Choctaw432
Jefferson421
Pontotoc353
Quitman330
Tishomingo320
Stone300
Franklin292
Tallahatchie271
George251
Alcorn171
Benton150
Greene131
Sharkey70
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 17952

Reported Deaths: 630
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Mobile2239116
Jefferson1837102
Montgomery171040
Tuscaloosa78315
Marshall6939
Franklin5567
Lee54833
Shelby51720
Tallapoosa42765
Butler41118
Chambers35525
Walker3542
Elmore3548
Madison3394
Baldwin2909
Morgan2801
Dallas2723
Etowah25711
DeKalb2483
Lowndes24612
Coffee2361
Sumter2247
Autauga2214
Houston2204
Bullock2095
Pike2030
Colbert1842
Hale1739
Russell1710
Marengo1706
Barbour1671
Lauderdale1642
Calhoun1603
Choctaw1538
Wilcox1487
Clarke1442
Cullman1430
Randolph1277
St. Clair1231
Marion12211
Pickens1164
Dale1150
Talladega1135
Limestone1060
Chilton1011
Greene944
Winston900
Macon824
Henry802
Covington801
Jackson782
Crenshaw753
Bibb751
Washington706
Escambia633
Blount621
Lawrence500
Geneva430
Conecuh411
Coosa401
Monroe402
Perry390
Cherokee373
Clay272
Lamar260
Fayette160
Cleburne151
Unassigned00
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