As the number of children in foster care in Mississippi climbs, officials are looking to another state that is overcoming a similar problem for help.
Mississippi is collaborating with the former Director of Michigan's Department of Human Services to develop ways to keep more children safe in the home with their parents. David Chandler is Commissioner of Mississippi's Child Protection Services agency. He says the number of children in the state's system is growing fast.
"The last time I looked there was 5,985. But that was a few days ago. So, most likely the number is over 6,000 now," said Chandler.
Chandler says drug abuse is an enormous problem among young mothers. He says they've hired more social workers, so they are also able to identify more cases of abuse and neglect. Mississippi is facing a federal lawsuit for not protecting its children in its care. Tracy Malone is with Child Protection Services. She says Michigan faces a similar lawsuit. The state has made inroads in addressing 150 of the 200 problems in its case.
"Being able to communicate with somebody who has been where you are and has seen some of the very same things and as I said has been able to successful at resolving some of them is really exciting for us in Mississippi right now," said Malone.
Like David Chandler, Michigan's former director of DHS, Maura Corrigan was also a state supreme court chief justice, who was tapped by the governor to reform the fostercare system. Corrigan discussed factors that put children in danger.
"When a child under 3-years old is living in a home environment and the man in the home with mom is not the biological father that's a high risk to a child," said Corrigan.
Corrigan will be meeting with the Child Protection Services in the coming months to hold workshops. The agency is working to bring together churches and local organizations to support the effort.