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Mississippi under the gun to reform foster care system

The number of children in Mississippi foster care custody has increased steadily over the years. In 2012, the number was running at almost 4,000. Currently there are said to be nearly 5,000 children in the system.

That there are so many children under the wing of the state may be less of an issue than the fact that the system is in such a state of disrepair. Critics and child welfare activists say there are too many cases of children failing to get the medical care they need. Adoption processes are in limbo and worker caseloads are so high that the mission of protecting children is not being accomplished. And no one is being held accountable.

This isn't a new situation. The state has been under court order to repair what's broken for the past seven years. Unfortunately, nothing much has happened. But perhaps that is about to change. Last month, a federal judge found the state in contempt of the order and ordered officials to get moving.

The order requires the state to bring in outside consultants to do an evaluation and make recommendations. But it doesn't stop there. If the state doesn't accept the recommendations, the judge will step in. The whole system could wind up in the hands of a court-appointed receiver.

How things will pan out isn't clear just yet. The governor says he intends to get directly involved and there have been suggestions that a special legislative session might be required to modify the laws that cover the Department of Human Services' Family and Children's Services Division.

This is something that those involved in family law in the state will be watching closely.

Source: Jackson Free Press, "Overdue Foster Care Reform Coming Soon," Arielle Dreher, July 29, 2015

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