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.

Cases: 255125

Reported Deaths: 5574
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto17197175
Hinds16280322
Harrison13502193
Rankin10749211
Jackson10407183
Lee8819141
Madison8262162
Jones6375110
Forrest5992119
Lauderdale5873180
Lowndes5381116
Lafayette496692
Lamar487565
Washington4800123
Bolivar3978108
Oktibbeha393880
Panola370779
Pontotoc365353
Monroe3543105
Warren353498
Union344760
Marshall342665
Neshoba3383152
Pearl River329799
Leflore3004105
Lincoln297685
Sunflower284969
Hancock273459
Tate272462
Alcorn264053
Pike263577
Itawamba262959
Scott246645
Yazoo245955
Prentiss245652
Copiah241949
Tippah241750
Simpson235767
Coahoma233754
Leake231164
Grenada218470
Covington213071
Marion212072
Adams205870
Wayne201331
Winston200564
George199338
Attala193759
Newton192842
Tishomingo186359
Chickasaw183944
Jasper170835
Holmes168767
Clay159433
Stone143621
Tallahatchie141034
Clarke138960
Calhoun136121
Smith120823
Yalobusha117034
Walthall112336
Noxubee110522
Greene110229
Montgomery109634
Carroll104521
Lawrence102617
Perry102231
Amite98025
Webster92424
Tunica86721
Claiborne86625
Jefferson Davis84825
Humphreys83024
Benton81823
Kemper77220
Quitman6918
Franklin66615
Choctaw60513
Wilkinson58425
Jefferson54319
Sharkey43017
Issaquena1596
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 424028

Reported Deaths: 6121
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson62258921
Mobile30381549
Madison27160186
Tuscaloosa20779267
Montgomery19049305
Shelby18572114
Baldwin16346182
Lee12515101
Morgan12260113
Etowah11757168
Calhoun11161200
Marshall10199107
Houston8630148
Cullman8036105
Limestone802874
Elmore7849101
DeKalb768897
Lauderdale760083
St. Clair7555120
Talladega6180108
Walker5903174
Jackson581341
Colbert533573
Blount530883
Autauga519855
Coffee443956
Dale398581
Franklin367548
Chilton337665
Russell331710
Covington327768
Escambia319342
Dallas303396
Chambers284269
Clarke282133
Tallapoosa2617107
Pike249429
Marion246250
Lawrence244247
Winston227335
Bibb216247
Geneva202535
Marengo199729
Pickens197031
Hale176442
Barbour173036
Butler170258
Fayette169026
Cherokee160530
Henry154421
Monroe145617
Randolph140735
Washington137726
Clay126745
Crenshaw119544
Lamar118219
Cleburne117723
Macon115035
Lowndes110735
Wilcox103121
Bullock99128
Perry97719
Conecuh94420
Sumter89126
Greene76123
Coosa60515
Choctaw51524
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