Attorney Marcia Lowry, with A Better Childhood, contends Mississippi's Department of Human Services isn't complying with a 2008 federal law suit settlement to reform the foster care system. Lowry says the court appointed monitor's annual reports consistently cite on-going concerns, such as social workers having too many cases, a shortage of facilities to place children and poor record keeping.
"The state has not felt the pressure to comply because it's been out of compliance year, after year, after year, and that is why we brought the contempt order," said Lowry.
Lowry says, the state has admitted its negligence and Governor Phil Bryant has agreed to hire an executive director of the Department of Family and Children's Service, waive state salary requirements for the director and members of a senior management team and hire a national child welfare consulting agency to conduct an analysis of the department. U.S. District Judge Tom Lee is expected to sign the agreement any time now. Linda West, with Mississippi Families For Kids, places foster care children in permanent homes. She believes the department is making some progress.
"I think that we do have more workers with credentials. We do have more children I think that are being placed in permanent homes. I do think we have more licensed foster homes," said West.
Attorney Marcia Lowry says there are 11,000 children in the foster care system. In a statement released by Governor Phil Bryant he said: "My intent is to improve conditions for children who find themselves in foster care in Mississippi. These children must be protected and that is why I have advocated the creation of a Children's Cabinet."