The day that Mag Holland of Long Beach was in Washington, D.C., to receive an Angels in Adoption Award from U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, she was also there to advocate for foster kids before Congress.
Mississippi's problems with foster children and adoption are well documented.
There have been lawsuits, a special task force to look at Hancock County's soaring number of foster children, and hundreds of dedicated people such as Holland involved. Still, she said, Mississippi is far behind some other states when it comes to foster care.
"I'm not being negative about my state, which I love," she said. "I've just learned so much, so many things we could be doing."
For instance, she learned that in some states children who become wards of the state automatically gain health insurance. In Mississippi, it's not automatic and can take a long time to apply for and be granted Medicaid.
"When they get insurance, I'm able to take them to a doctor, for an eye exam and other health care," said Holland, who with her husband, Marty, has taken in dozens of foster children. "You have to get them feeling good before you can work with them."
When children come into foster care, the problems from their troubled homes come with them.
"I've seen the problems that come with foster care," she said. "That's why I've become an advocate. I want Mississippi to be better."
Wicker said he nominated Holland for the award because of her extraordinary work on behalf of neglected, abused, and displaced children in Mississippi.
"Mrs. Holland has taken in nearly 40 foster children in Mississippi over the past 13 years," said Wicker, a strong advocate for adoption issues. She and her husband, Marty, have also generously accepted children into their home for emergency placement at only a moment's notice.
"After Hurricane Katrina, they volunteered to turn their home into an emergency youth shelter. Mrs. Holland's compassion and dedication should inspire us to find a caring family for every child in need."
Because of the shortage of licensed foster parents able to take emergency placements, Holland, who works for the Harrison County Board of Supervisors as director for the Retired Senior Volunteer Program, often accepts upwards of three children at a time, as frequently as every other weekend and at all hours of the night, according to Wicker's office.
She and her husband have raised six children. They adopted their two youngest -- girls ages 12 and 16 -- after caring for them as foster children.
She also serves on the board of the Mississippi Chapter of North American Council on Adoptable Children and as vice president of the Mississippi State Association for Youth, Foster, Adoption, & Kinship Care. Mrs. Holland is the foster care chairman for the state of Mississippi. She also serves as a board member for the Court Appointed Special Advocates of Harrison County and as president of the Resilience of Coastal Kids, Inc.
The Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute, which sponsors the "Angels in Adoption" program, is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that works to raise awareness about the needs of children without families and to remove policy barriers that hinder children from knowing the love and support a family provides. CCAI, which does not receive government funding, was established in 2001 as an outgrowth of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption.