Foster Care Lawsuit - - Jackson, MS

Foster Care Lawsuit

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By Maggie Wade - bio| email

Jackson, MS -(WLBT) - A national group asked a federal judge to appoint someone else to take over Mississippi's foster care system. They also wanted the Division of Family and Children's Services for the Department of Human Services held in contempt of court. It all goes back to a lawsuit filed in 2005 and a settlement of the case in 2007.

In 2005 Children's Rights, a national advocacy group cited the case of 12-year-old Ashley Andrews of Pearl River County. She was tortured and killed. Ashley's mother and step father were charged but the Department of Human Services had been investigating Ashley's case since 1998.

Now Children's Rights say Mississippi had more than 350 children in unlicensed foster homes with caregivers who have not been screened or trained. Children's Rights attorney, Shirim Nothenberg said that is in violation of the agreement the state made to settle a lawsuit fighting for the rights of children like Ashley and others in foster care. We talked with her by phone from her office in New York.

"What we found in Mississippi, not only were kids languishing in care but they were in unsafe places often or they were in homes that were not being supervised by the state so it wasn't the safe haven Mississippi taxpayers were paying for", said Nothenberg.

In the 2007 settlement, DHS agreed to make sweeping improvements in the system. Nothenberg says the state is still failing the children it promised to protect. The latest motion accused DHS of widespread and massive disregard for the terms of the agreement and the court's order.

"We're hearing about foster parents who don't even have a medicaid card properly provided to them so if the child is sick they can't secure medical services in a timely basis", Nothenberg said.

The group filed a 61 page memorandum in federal court in Jackson Tuesday. The group claims there are several cases in which children have been beaten by their foster parents or abused during state sanctioned visits with their biological families.

"This is not a case of the state not understanding what had to happen. They agreed the system was broken, they agreed to take measures that reform the system to serve Mississippi's children", said Nothenberg.

A spokesperson for DHS told WLBT Wednesday afternoon the agency has no comment.

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