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State system continues to fail

It is clear Mississippi is incapable of meeting foster care system standards outlined in a court decree. A report Tuesday showed the Department of Child Protective Services met only 37 of 113 standards. The court-decreed standards are the result of a years-long lawsuit brought on behalf of a young girl who was abused in the foster care system.

Under the settlement of the lawsuit, the state agreed to limit the number of cases any social worker was handling, as well as the number of social workers each supervisor oversees, The Associated Press reported. At this point, 90 percent of social workers were supposed to have low enough caseloads to meet standards, but the monitor said that was true for only 57 percent of workers.

The report also questioned whether the state is doing enough to investigate reports of mistreatment of children after a 4-year-old in Natchez was beaten to death in a case CPS had investigated. CPS opened a case but did not take the child into custody.

The attorney suing the state intends to ask a judge to find the state in contempt for failing to meet the standards.

“I think the facts are very bad and I don’t think the state can be trusted because kids are being hurt,” Marcia Lowry told The Associated Press. Lowry said she would file a renewed motion for contempt soon.

CPS Commissioner Jess Dickinson agreed that the state hasn’t reached its goals, but argued that improvements have been made.

“Much good is about to bear fruit in terms of greatly improved services to children,”  Dickinson said in a statement.

The report found that 1.15 percent of children in foster care last year, or 95 of about 8,000, were mistreated, AP reported. Mississippi had agreed to meet a lower standard of 0.33 percent, or 27 children mistreated.

It is clear the state’s system for protecting children is broken, and 15 years of court decrees and judge’s orders has not changed that. If the state can’t, or won’t, do what’s necessary to fix the system, then the judge should appoint an outsider to take it over. Mississippi’s abused and neglected children deserve better than what the state is currently providing.