State ordered back to court over foster care - - Jackson, MS

State ordered back to court over foster care

The back and forth battle over Mississippi's foster care system is headed back to federal court. A national advocacy group says the federal court must take action to force the state to comply with its rulings, because children's lives depend on it.

The latest report on Mississippi's seven and half year old battle to reform foster care per court order shows more failure. The findings, released Monday, cover efforts to improve foster care from July 1, 2013 through June 30, 2014. 

Court monitor Grace Lopes says the State Department of Human Services has made almost no progress in protecting the safety and well being of thousands of children in its custody. The report calls the situation urgent.

"The citizens of the state ought to be very concerned about what's happening to its children," said A Better Childhood Executive Director Marcia Robinson Lowry. 

She talked with us in 2013, and now says many of the same problems remain. The report points out staffing shortages, excessive caseloads, says timely medical care is not being provided and cites maltreatment investigations are not taking place on a timely basis.

Plaintiff foster children have asked the federal court to appoint a receiver to take over the state's foster care system. Lowry says the state has been given more time since the initial court agreement in 2008, but says this latest report shows in many instances the foster care system's performance became even worse.

"We don't know what's happening to the children," said Lowry. "Unfortunately it is clear from all that the court monitor has documented, the state of Mississippi is simply not going to protect its most vulnerable children unless the federal court takes additional action to make them do so. Children's lives depend upon it."

Federal Judge Tom Lee has scheduled an evidentiary hearing in Jackson that begins August 10.

A spokeswoman for DHS says the agency cannot respond due to pending litigation.

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