The Mississippi Department of Child Protection Services is rolling out a new backpack program for children removed from homes. When children are removed from homes after a child abuse or neglect case, Commissioner Jess Dickinson said they often leave with a few belongings in a trash bag before being taken to a shelter or foster care.
“I had a discussion with my staff and determined we could do better than that,” said Dickinson. “It sent a terrible message to take a young child and put their things in a garbage bag.”
The National Strategic Planning and Analysis Research Center at Mississippi State University, who helped MDCPS develop their report child abuse app, also helped them create brochures about the new backpack program.
“We go into civic clubs and churches and put in displays that have a brochure that explains to the people that if you can’t adopt a child, and if you do not believe you can be a foster parent, there is something you can do," added Dickinson.
The brochures include information about what items are needed to be placed in the backpacks for children of both genders and various age groups.
Once the bags are purchased and filled, they can be delivered to MDCPS or can be picked up.
The bags are then stored at a MDCPS office and are taken with a caseworker when a child needs to removed from a home.
“It has their things in it, in addition to the things that are already in the backpack,” said Dickinson. “They can put their favorite teddy bear or other things they want to take with them so that it’s not quite as traumatic for the child as it would have been if you just take them up and put them in a brand new home with new people and they don’t have anything with them that belongs to them. This backpack belongs to them.”
The Madison County Junior Auxiliary made a major contribution to MDCPS’ backpack program in Madison, with a donation of 300 backpacks, for boys and girls of various ages.
Shelby Cooper, a 17-year-old Germantown High School student serves as the coordinator for the Madison County backpack program.
Cooper said her family wanted to find a way to pitch in and help foster children in Madison County.
She is a member of the Crown Club, which is under the Madison County Junior Auxiliary group that donated the 300 backpacks, which Cooper said could last up to 6 months.
Cooper said the bags are filled with clothes, coloring books, toys, and toiletries.
“I was adopted, so this program is part of my background sort of,” said Cooper. “So just going back and helping the kids and being able to give them something they don’t have really interests me.”
Dickinson said he plans to eventually expand the backpack program statewide.
If you’d like to donate a backpack to the MDCPS’ Backpack Program, contact the Jackson CPS office at 601-359-9669 or your local CPS office.
Civic groups and organizations can also reach out to the Grace Crossing Baptist Church in Gluckstadt.
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