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Local plans leadership for MDHS

On Feb. 1, Brookhaven’s John Davis will begin his duties as executive director of the Mississippi Department of Human Services.

Davis has been working at MDHS for 24 years. He began his career as a social worker in Lincoln County. He was a policy writer and trainer before serving as director for Lincoln County.

The executive director appointment comes in the face of increased scrutiny of the foster care system by the federal courts. A court-appointed monitor, Grace Lopes, is the second in a row to find the state is failing to meet settlement obligations in a federal lawsuit.

Filed on March 30, 2004, the suit claimed that Mississippi’s foster care system failed to adequately protect children in its custody. The case was settled in 2008, and the settlement was modified in 2012.

“Any time we have issues within the agency, our first concern is always the children,” Davis said. “If there’s a way that we can help the children and families here in Mississippi, we’re going to do that first thing.

“That being said, we have Dr. Chandler, the former justice over at the Supreme Court who has come over to run that division, Family and Children’s Services. I believe with his expertise in the areas of families and children, as well as the law, that he can assist in a great way. I look forward to working with him and addressing any of those issues.”

David Chandler was appointed to lead the Division of Family and Children’s Services in December. Davis said he would need to work with Chandler to address the foster care issues.

“Until I get in and see exactly what direction we need to go working with Dr. Chandler, my primary concern is working to do the best we can,” Davis said.

Davis also expressed interest in streamlining the application process for foster parents and encouraged families who were interested to contact DHS.

“Find us, call us, go to our website, call our local county offices. Find a way to get in contact with us, and we’ll be glad to talk with them,” Davis said.

Including Family and Children’s Services, there are 11 different divisions in MDHS, and they also work closely with other organizations and government agencies.

“We have strengthened our ties with the employment security office, the community college system and many, many state agencies,” Davis said. “We’re working hand in hand with the new workforce investment opportunity act; it requires state agencies to work together to assist individuals. That’s what we’re going to do. Anything we can do to assist an individual or family to become self-sufficient then we want to do that.”