Editorials

Mississippi takes steps to fix foster care

WESLEY MULLER/SUN HERALD 
Hancock County Department of Human Services
WESLEY MULLER/SUN HERALD Hancock County Department of Human Services

There wasn't much to cheer about in the past legislative session but we can commend lawmakers and Gov. Phil Bryant for trying to fix the state's broken foster-care system.

The state will spend an additional $34 million on foster care starting July 1. It took a lawsuit and the threat of a federal court takeover to wake the state up, but we're pleased plaintiffs are willing to give the state time to see if its plan will work.

That suit, known as Olivia Y, alleged the foster-care system violated the constitutional rights of children by failing to protect those in state custody and by failing to provide them with necessary services. The state since 2004 has been unable to correct those problems to the satisfaction of plaintiff attorneys and the court.

Now, the state has reached a turning point.

David Chandler stepped down from the state Supreme Court to lead the newly created Division of Child Protection Services, and we're encouraged by what he has done.

First of all, he's cleaned house.

"Everyone who has been brought to my attention, who is not productive and hardworking, is no longer here," Chandler told a Jackson television station.

And he has an ambitious plan to train more than 200 additional social workers in July when the extra money to hire them is available. He said he's already working with the state's colleges and universities to recruit dedicated employees.

And he plans to raise salaries.

But, Chandler told the Associated Press, this is not a job the division can accomplish on its own. He needs help from churches and other community organizations.

"This isn't a department problem," he said. "It's a community problem."

Yes, it is.

This editorial represents the views of the Sun Herald editorial board. Opinions of columnists and cartoonists are their own.

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