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Federal Judge Gives Mississippi 30 Days to Craft Plan To Improve Child Protective Services

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 22 May 2014 03:36pm | comments
A federal judge is giving the state of Mississippi 30 days to come with a plan to improve its child welfare system to comply with a court order. MPB's Jeffrey Hess reports an new investigation finds that the state is still lagging behind, six years after agreeing to improve.
The review of the state's child welfare programs found that Mississippi was compliant on just 10 of 33 measurable goals. 
The case stems out of a 2008 settlement known as Olivia Y.
Where Mississippi settled a lawsuit about its treatment of children and agreed to a court order to improve. 
Attorney Marcia Lowry, who is representing the group Children's Rights, says among the problems are having too few case workers that are over worked, as well as failing to follow up on reported mistreatment of children or removing children from abusive situations.
"And having no accountability. That is probably the most fundamental problem in this system. There is not a plan for ensuring that the field officers are doing what is required by the court order and by the state's own policies. So what is acutally happening in some of the counties is not under control of the state," Lowry said.
In a federal court yesterday, the judge gave the state and Children's Rights 30 days to come up with a new plan to fix the problems....this is now the third settlement in the Olivia Y case.
Rusty Fortenberry represented the state in the case and says he thinks they can reach an agreement .
"I am certainly optimistic. The state is making a good faith effort to negotiate that. So I am optimistic and hopful," Fortenberry said.
Fortenberry says they have raised salaries for caseworkers in an attempt to lure more people into the field but also points out the population of children in foster care has increased in recent years.
The researcher who performed the study, Grace Lopes, said in court that the state has a lot of work to do to come into compliance with the settlement and improve services intended to protect children. 
If The state and Children's rights do not reach an agreement by the next court date in late June, the state could be declared in contempt of court.




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