A new coalition is coming to the aid of Mississippi parents struggling with addiction and the children caught up in abuse.
Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Dawn Beam is coordinating a network of organizations to keep children out of foster care. It's a pilot project called ReNew MS. She says too many kids are in state custody because parents are addicted to drugs.
"Research has shown us that we have a systemic problem. The children that are the mothers today were the children 15 or 20 years ago in our court," said Beam.
ReNew MS builds on the newly created state department of child protection services. The agency is tasked with transforming the foster care system, as part of a U.S. Department of Justice lawsuit settlement over neglect. The department says the average rate of children removed from homes because of parental drug abuse is 35.1 percent-- higher than the national average of 31.8 percent. Marion, Pearl River and Hancock Counties have the highest rates. ReNew will use the resources of non-profits, faith-based groups, youth courts and volunteers to provide services to women and children. Reba Davis is with child protection services.
"We're looking at immediately establishing resources in the sense of parenting skills, life skills, individualized therapy that would best assist mothers on an individualized basis," said Davis.
Davis begins working in Marion County today. First Lady Deborah Bryant is ReNew's Co-Chair.
"Our goal is to get those homes and the mothers fit to be able to take care of these children. But at the same time we don't send those children back home until we know that they're safe," said Bryant.
The project begins in Pearl River in January, and then onto Hancock County.