The future of foster care in mississippi jackson free press jackson, ms

In 2017, the lawsuit allowed the system time to meet the court-ordered requirements, including mandating that 90 percent of caseworkers meet their caseloads, which means staff cannot work with more than a set number of cases. In December, Mississippi Department of Child Protective Services reached 61 percent, but in May, it regressed to 52 percent.

"We want a receivership at this point because this judgment has been in effect for a very long time," Marcia Lowry, the primary attorney and executive director at A Better Childhood, which advocates for children in welfare systems, told the Jackson Free Press. "We’ve renegotiated it twice now. The State has promised repeatedly, time after time after time, that they’re going to come into compliance, and they never have.


It is unclear what receivership in Mississippi would look like exactly, because there is only one example, Lowry said. But, it is likely the receiver would take over all budget and management functions and report to a federal judge. The U.S. District Court Southern District of Mississippi, where the lawsuit is filed, will set guidelines of what it would be, if the court grants receivership.

"We want to work with the State for a successful resolution to really see a world-class child-welfare system developed here in Mississippi. Someone coming from the outside who does not know the various systems—our concern is it would be a long learning curve before the right trajectory is set. We don’t want to see kids suffer during that learning curve. That’s a concern for us."

About 80 percent of Methodist Children’s Homes budget comes from government funding, while the other 20 percent comes from private donations. MCH does therapeutic care for kids, meaning it gets kids who experienced severe trauma and need an extra level of care, including intensive therapy. When a kid arrives at MCH, it’s an average of his or her 10th foster placement, which can exasperate trauma, Samantha Kalahar said in an interview.

In February, the Family First Prevention Services Act became a law in nationwide. One part of the law diverts money from foster care to the prevention of family separation. This means instead of immediately removing children from homes, the State works with the families to provide services to create the necessary level of care. This only happens in homes that are not deemed high risk, MDCPS Director of Communications Lea Anne Brandon told the Jackson Free Press.

"Given our state’s tight budget, we need to lean into programs that have a demonstrated track record of success, and it can prevent and divert kids from entering the system," Damon said. "If we concentrate dollars there and work very hard to take the kids that are in the system and move them to permanency … then you’re left with the fewer kids in the system, which means a higher concentration of dollars to help those highly complex, traumatized kids."

"At best, foster care is intended to be a temporary intervention for children who need the safety and security of an out-of-home placement. It was never intended to be a long-term or permanent solution to the problem," MDCPS Commissioner Jess Dickinson said in a statement. "We operate on the conviction that children develop best when raised in families and that all children and youth both deserve and need a permanent and loving family."

"I’ve definitely learned that the stigma isn’t true towards foster care," Valenthia said. "People think ‘Oh well, you’ve got a child that’s not yours in your home. They’re not going to treat you like mom and dad. They’re not going to love you, they’re not going to respect you. They’re going to act out. They’re going to be a wayward child.’ But it’s not true.

"I was like ‘I don’t want to seem like a failure. I want to help her.’ But I knew, my husband and I, we both prayed about it, and it was like ‘Hey, this is beyond what we can do. If she needs more help, then let her get that help. We would be blocking her from what she needs if she stays here.’ We had to look at it that way. Once we decided to let her go back and everything to get some further treatment, we ended up with our son, and it’s been amazing."

"I’ll suffer through the sleepless nights if I have to stay up to do something for my son, or whatever," Valenthia said. "As a foster parent, when you see the outcome of positivity and just seeing that ‘OK, he really or she really cares, and they see that themselves.’ It’s eye-opening for me, and it’s eye-opening for that child because they’ll start opening up to you more, talking to you more."

"It’s very important to get the message out that the foster-care crisis is not a CPS problem; it’s a State of Mississippi problem," Damon said. "The solution is not a CPS solution, it’s a State of Mississippi solution. … It will take everybody’s help to solve this. We can’t look to the governor, to CPS, we need everybody to say ‘What can I do to help?’"