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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.

Cases: 259117

Reported Deaths: 5668
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto17331186
Hinds16373328
Harrison13731199
Rankin10854217
Jackson10557187
Lee8922141
Madison8335166
Jones6483112
Forrest6038120
Lauderdale5965187
Lowndes5425118
Lafayette503193
Lamar490865
Washington4826124
Bolivar4024109
Oktibbeha397681
Panola374680
Pontotoc369855
Monroe3591105
Warren3569100
Union348063
Marshall347769
Neshoba3413152
Pearl River3329103
Leflore3059107
Lincoln299386
Sunflower288271
Hancock282559
Tate274362
Alcorn267454
Itawamba265260
Pike264679
Scott250847
Prentiss248252
Yazoo247356
Tippah244450
Copiah243949
Coahoma242254
Simpson238368
Leake232966
Grenada220671
Covington215072
Marion215073
Adams207870
Wayne203232
Winston202667
George201939
Newton195044
Attala194659
Tishomingo191661
Chickasaw185744
Jasper174438
Holmes169168
Clay161335
Tallahatchie148235
Stone145921
Clarke141762
Calhoun137621
Smith122725
Yalobusha119134
Walthall112836
Noxubee111423
Greene111029
Montgomery110136
Carroll105321
Lawrence103217
Perry102831
Amite98826
Webster93924
Tunica87421
Claiborne86625
Jefferson Davis85827
Benton83323
Humphreys83324
Kemper78420
Quitman6969
Franklin67115
Choctaw61213
Wilkinson58825
Jefferson55419
Sharkey44017
Issaquena1596
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 429655

Reported Deaths: 6283
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson63040956
Mobile30794557
Madison27486201
Tuscaloosa20996268
Montgomery19352315
Shelby18833120
Baldwin16653184
Lee12749102
Morgan12389119
Etowah11861176
Calhoun11292201
Marshall10290113
Houston8746156
Limestone813276
Cullman8125106
Elmore7999104
DeKalb776599
Lauderdale768698
St. Clair7651121
Talladega6309108
Walker5954174
Jackson586341
Colbert539873
Blount537683
Autauga525755
Coffee450456
Dale402981
Franklin369948
Russell340711
Chilton338966
Covington332668
Escambia326043
Dallas308896
Chambers293170
Clarke287833
Tallapoosa2641107
Pike255230
Marion248953
Lawrence246649
Winston229535
Bibb218847
Geneva205446
Marengo202829
Pickens197531
Hale179542
Barbour176036
Fayette172928
Butler170858
Cherokee161930
Henry156523
Monroe149818
Randolph142135
Washington139126
Clay127645
Crenshaw121544
Cleburne119023
Lamar119021
Macon118637
Lowndes112036
Wilcox105121
Bullock101128
Perry99019
Conecuh95720
Sumter89626
Greene76623
Coosa61015
Choctaw51624
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