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Mississippi ranks last among states in child welfare

A recent study has delivered a sad verdict on Mississippi's ability to provide for its children. The study was prepared by the Annie E. Casey Foundation Kids Count Data Center. According to the study, Mississippi ranks last among the 50 states in overall child welfare. The study examined Mississippi's ability to provide children with foster care and health care. An important implication of the study is the critical role played by child custody and child support orders in divorce cases.

Children in Mississippi are caught between an escalating poverty rate and a shortage of state funding for various child welfare programs. Thirty-four percent of all Mississippi children live in poverty, and more than sixty percent of these families are headed by single mothers. The average income necessary to support one adult and two children is $51,180, but Mississippi women earn a median annual income of only $31,465.

A second shortcoming in the state's child welfare programs is its inability to provide adequate foster care. The state has only 1,486 licensed foster homes and more than 5,000 children in state custody. In 2008, the state settled a lawsuit by Children's Rights that alleged that the state failed to adequately care for children in its foster care system. In settling the lawsuit, Mississippi agreed to reduce the caseloads for social workers and eliminate the practice of placing children in unlicensed foster homes.

The child welfare system in Mississippi has shown signs of improvement in recent years, but many children are still at risk. Thus, court-ordered financial payments, in the form of child support, in divorce cases can provide both adequate shelter and food for minor children. Enforcing such orders and modifying orders that impose unreasonable hardships on non-custodial parents are crucial elements of the state's child welfare system. Anyone who is owed but has not received child support payments may wish to consider consulting an experienced family lawyer for advice on what steps are available to enforce such orders.

Source: The DM Online, "Mississippi ranks last in child welfare, foster system struggles," Jonathan Gibson, April 21, 2017

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