Special Reports

DHS

A young mom took a leap and sued DHS. It may have been doomed to fail.

A federal court on Friday dismissed a lawsuit that accused the Mississippi Department of Human Services and two of its employees of falsifying records to ‘steal’ a woman’s two children. The US District Court in Gulfport dismissed all claims against DHS and the agency’s two employees, Tequila Hall and Patricia Piazza, finding the agency ‘enjoys sovereign immunity’ and the employees enjoy ‘qualified immunity’ under statutes that shield state departments and their workers from lawsuits.

DHS

Another Hancock youth court official resigns — the sixth in six months

Hancock County Youth Court Judge Elise Deano advised the Hancock County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday that Stephanie Stewart tendered her resignation as youth court administrator after holding the position for five months. Stewart is the third Hancock County youth court administrator to resign since the end of 2015 and the sixth employee to leave since September.

DHS

Youth court reform bill passes Mississippi House, then halted

Rep. Mark Baker, R-Brandon, filed a motion to reconsider House Bill 1210, stopping the bill from going to the Senate where it has a solid chance of passing. The bill seeks to provide parents with redacted copies of their own youth court case records and is one of the many legislative efforts to reform issues brought to light in the Sun Herald’s ‘Fostering Secrets’ investigation last year.

DHS

What a youth court judge didn’t want the media to know

The situation at a house in the Bayside community was “of such an emergency nature,” according to the youth court, that Child Protection Services was ordered to forcibly enter the home in September to try to seize three children who lived there with their parents. State Rep. Timmy Ladner said he has begun an investigation into the Harrington case as well as another youth court case in which Judge Steve Maggio placed someone under a gag order.

DHS

DHS doesn’t want to take your children

In a rare insight into the workings of the Department of Human Services, a Hancock County DHS caseworker talks about the challenges of the job. A regional director tells how the department has evolved over the last four years, adding more workers and reducing their caseloads. Still, Hancock County has the highest per-capita rate of children in DHS care in the state.

DHS

Did a social worker lie to take away this Mississippi mom’s child?

A single mother from rural Hancock County walked into the sheriff’s office in 2015 with a stack of documents and an allegation that sparked criminal investigations into what may be the most secretive government entity in Mississippi. The woman told investigators a child protective services worker had forged a custody document and used it to take away her child.

DHS

They said she drank nail polish remover—but secret photos told a different tale

In January 2015, sheriff’s investigators began probing Mindi Stiglet’s complaint, which accused Mississippi Department of Human Services worker Fegee Simms in the forging of a document that led to Stiglet’s child being taken taken from her and put in foster care. But just as the investigation gained footing, detectives hit a roadblock when the Attorney General’s Office declined to pursue charges.

DHS

Her toddlers contracted an STD while in foster care

On June 11, 2014, a Hancock County woman received a text message from a Department of Human Services worker urging her to come to a hospital in Gulfport. The woman’s two children, ages 1 and 2 at the time, had been sexually abused and infected with gonorrhea while in state custody.

Videos

Would open Youth Courts in Mississippi help children or hurt them?

Judges, parents, attorney offer different perspectives on the secrecy of Youth Court in Mississippi, and whether open courts would make a difference.
John Fitzhugh Sun Herald
Would open Youth Courts in Mississippi help children or hurt them? 3:38

Would open Youth Courts in Mississippi help children or hurt them?

A 'sincere and troubling problem' in Mississippi's secrecy law 2:51

A 'sincere and troubling problem' in Mississippi's secrecy law

Her kids were sexually abused while under state's care, and it gets worse 3:46

Her kids were sexually abused while under state's care, and it gets worse

Why does Hancock County have so many children in the DHS system? 2:08

Why does Hancock County have so many children in the DHS system?