PRESS RELEASE: New agreement reached in Olivia Y. Settlement


JACKSON— By negotiating a new settlement agreement in the Olivia Y. foster care lawsuit, the Mississippi Department of Child Protection Services (MDCPS) has reached another milestone in its mission to protect the children of Mississippi.

The new agreement, approved today by the U.S. District Court, creates clear, obtainable objectives and enhances the ability of the newly-formed MDCPS to direct its full attention to protecting Mississippi’s children. This agreement is the latest step in the reformation of the state’s child welfare system.

“This agreement will clear the way going forward for Mississippi to ensure the safety of all our children,” said MDCPS Commissioner David A. Chandler. “Our agency is working diligently to protect Mississippi’s children and nurture families by providing effective and efficient delivery of services statewide.”

In December 2015, Governor Phil Bryant tapped Chandler to oversee reform of Mississippi’s foster care system.  In May, Bryant signed Senate Bill 2179 establishing MDCPS as an independent agency and dramatically increasing its budget. The change enabled MDCPS to begin enhancing its infrastructure and increasing the number of social workers employed to meet the needs of children and families across the state.

“Our children deserve the best care in the nation,” Governor Bryant said when he signed the bill.  Approval of the new settlement agreement is a big step forward for MDCPS as it pursues Bryant’s objective.

Although the court’s approval of MDCPS’ progress is acknowledged as a positive indicator of the agency’s ongoing work to improve child welfare services, Chandler underscores “a lot of hard work” remains to be done.

“Because the agency has the leadership as well as the support of the Legislature, the Governor, and the people of Mississippi, MDCPS will continue to make great strides toward making welfare reform a reality. Protecting children and nurturing families remain the unwavering focus for everything we do.”

Under the new agreement, many unnecessarily rigorous reporting requirements under the 2012 settlement agreement have been lifted, freeing MDCPS to devote full attention to accomplishing its mission of protecting children and working to enhance the foster care system.  As the system is further improved and critical performance measures are met and maintained for a 12-month period, the individual measures will be removed from monitoring, creating an achievable path toward the eventual end of court oversight.

Key to these reforms is increasing the number of social workers across the state. Under the new agreement MDCPS is now able to hire recent college graduates with social work or related human services degrees, and then provide on-the-job clinical training to enhance the skill sets of the new hires. Increasing the number of highly trained social workers will play a tremendous role in optimizing the level of care for children.

“This new agreement wisely measures the steps that are most important to reaching our goal of protecting Mississippi’s children and nurturing families – and it will provide quantifiable evidence that we are, indeed, significantly improving the child welfare system in our state,” said Deputy Commissioner of Child Welfare Tracy Malone.

“Thanks to the leadership of our governor and other elected officials, we are now able to enact system reform in Mississippi that directly impacts the lives of the children and families statewide. With their support, we are working daily to improve and expand our services. We are putting more well-trained employees into every county of our state. We are recruiting and licensing more foster homes and adoptive, loving parents to care for children in need. And we are focusing all that we do to ensure the safety of every Mississippi child,” added Malone.

Among the key metrics mandated under the new settlement agreement is for MDCPS to increase the number of licensed foster homes across the state and to move foster children toward permanency as expeditiously as possible. This means the agency will continue to bolster its efforts to reunite children safely with their parents who have regained stability and, when that is not possible, recruit loving, adoptive families.

“MDCPS is appreciative for the continued support and the entire agency is grateful for the given opportunity to affect real change in the lives of Mississippi’s children and families,” Chandler added. “The assistance of so many has paved the road to completing this phase of the Olivia Y. settlement and it truly has been a collaborative effort. MDCPS recognizes the determination and hard work of countless individuals both inside and outside the agency and it is with gratitude this update of accomplishment and hope is shared.” 

More Information:
2nd Modified Mississippi Settlement Agreement And Reform Plan (http://mdcps.ms.gov/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/Second-MSA.pdf)

Stipulated Third Remedial Order (http://mdcps.ms.gov/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/STRO.pdf)


PRESS RELEASE: MDCPS Commissioner speaks to the Meridian Rotary Club and others across Mississippi


MERIDIAN, Miss. — It has been a busy year at the Mississippi Department of Child Protection Services (MDCPS). We’ve seen the appointment of our new Commissioner, Dr. David Chandler, continued negotiations with the plaintiffs as part of the Olivia Y. settlement agreement, and made significant progress in the de-coupling of our agency from the Mississippi Department of Human Services.

The responsibility of caring for the children of our state rests not just on the newly established agency created to ensure their protection, but also on the very special citizens who have made the important decision to foster Mississippi’s orphans. MDCPS staff alone cannot raise the thousands of children who have found themselves without a loving family, and a safe home to grow up in; we need help. Finding that help starts by addressing the heart of our communities and appealing to those who have joined an organization whose motto is “Service Above Self,” the members of Mississippi’s Rotary Clubs.

Dr. Chandler has spent the last several months visiting Rotary Clubs across our great state to meet members face to face, introduce our agency, and share our mission. Today, Dr. Chandler will be speaking to the Meridian Rotary Club. According to their website “Rotary is an organization of business and professional leaders united worldwide who provide humanitarian service, encourage high ethical standards in all vocations, and help build goodwill and peace in the world.”

MDCPS currently has 5,805 children in custody, and every single one deserves to build relationships with caring adults whose first priority is to act on behalf of their best interests. Many of these children have experienced abuse or neglect at the hands of their care givers, some have even been exposed to drug use. There is an immediate need for safe homes across Mississippi. The foster parent “supply” is low, however, demand is high. Considering the theory of “Supply and Demand,” and knowing that demand for the valuable resource of foster parents is high, we can conclude that the cost will, in turn, also be high.

However, MDCPS believes there is no price too high when it comes to the safety and protection of a child. Our agency has been restructured, rebuilt, and reborn. Under the leadership of our Commissioner, we will ensure the safety of every child in Mississippi while recruiting, training, and partnering with foster parents across the state, as well as other institutions committed to this same goal.

If you’re interested in joining MDCPS on our mission and would like to learn more about becoming a foster parent, contact MDCPS online at https://mdcps.ms.gov/become-a-resource-fosteradoptive-parent/ or call 1.800.821.9157.

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On November 8th, 2016, Commissioner Chandler visited the Booneville Rotary Club in Prentiss County. Pictured above are Regina Taylor, Deidra Calamese, Kerry Shelley, Dr. David Chandler, and Veronica Smith.

PRESS RELEASE: MDCPS Commissioner serves at the Salvation Army this Thanksgiving


TUPELO, Miss. — Thanksgiving Day is typically spent gathered together with family and friends to reflect on the passing year while enjoying the tradition of feasting on an elaborate meal, and giving thanks. However, for so many, that just isn’t an option. Mississippi has one of the highest poverty rates in the nation with 22% of our population’s income falling below the poverty line. According to the Center for American Progress’ 2015 data, Mississippi is ranked at #51 with 637,128 of our citizens earning less than $24,250 annually within a family of four. Thousands struggle to make ends meet and put food on the table every day, let alone on Thanksgiving. The National Coalition for the Homeless reports Mississippi as 46th in the nation.

Thankfully, the Salvation Army is here to help! The Tupelo Chapter served over 3,000 meals on Thanksgiving Day last year and is looking forward to filling that need again this year at their Red Shield Lodge Emergency Shelter, located at 527 Carnation Street in Tupelo, Mississippi.

The Red Shield Lodge is a place for those in need to come and receive positive reinforcement, laundry facilities, a safe place to sleep, and food to eat, all while being surrounded by people who want to help and are willing to listen.

On Thanksgiving Day this year, the Commissioner of the Mississippi Department of Child Protection Services, Dr. David Chandler, will be one of those people. Dr. Chandler feels, “It is a real privilege to join hands with the Salvation Army to make sure that the most vulnerable among us receives and enjoys a meal this Thanksgiving.”

Many of the adults affected by poverty have children, and it is the primary goal of MDCPS to ensure that these children remain in their own homes with their parents. “It is vital that our agency, and those like us, do all that we can to keep these families together by providing the necessary resources,” says Dr. Chandler.

Find out more about the Tupelo Chapter’s Hope & A Future Capital Campaign or contact the Tupelo Salvation Army at 662-842-9222 or 662-680-2754, or nationally at 1-800-SAL-ARMY (725-2769).

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PRESS RELEASE: MDCPS Celebrates National Adoption Month this November


JACKSON, Miss. — November is National Adoption Month! Currently, there are 5,557 children in foster care in the state of Mississippi. Of those, 468 are available for adoption and 74 presently do not have adoptive homes identified.

With National Adoption Month approaching, the Mississippi Department of Child Protection Services (MDCPS) has been busy exploring ways to help raise awareness across the state, while also celebrating the miracle that is ADOPTION!

MDCPS partnered with Governor Phil Bryant and adoptive mother, Judge Rhea Sheldon, to film a new Public Service Announcement focusing on adoption. Both radio and television versions will be aired state wide to let Mississippians know: there are kids right here at home that need you! Please consider opening your heart and your home through adoption by calling 1.800.821.9157.

Southern Christian Services for Children and Youth recently collaborated with MDCPS to construct a large portable gallery containing professional photographs of 42 children currently anticipating finding their forever families through adoption. This Heart Gallery display will travel to events across the state not only to raise awareness about the local children awaiting adoption, but to also put faces to the cause. Every single one of these children deserve a safe and loving home.

MDCPS has also launched an online Heart Gallery, which displays a complete listing of all the Mississippi children who need adoptive homes, including photographs and profiles. Visit https://mdcps.ms.gov/mississippi-heart-gallery/ to view these precious children and to learn more about becoming a foster or adoptive parent.

There are several Adoption Events taking place across the state in November to celebrate National Adoption Month:

Mass Adoption:
November 28, 2016 at 10 a.m.
Marion County Chancery Court
250 Broad Street
Columbia, MS 39429
Reception to Follow

Adoption Celebrations:
November 3, 2016, 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Guest Speaker: Justice Dawn Beam, 10th District Chancery Court
Kamper Park Zoo
107 South 17th Avenue
Hattiesburg, MS 39401

November 5, 2016, 11:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
Guest Speaker: Judge William Singletary,
Hinds County Chancery Court
Hinds County, MDCPS Building
4777 Medgar Evers Blvd.
Jackson, MS 39283

November 12, 2016, 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
M.R. Davis Public Library
8554 Northwest Drive
Southaven, MS 38671

November 12, 2016, 11:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
Guest Speaker: Commissioner David Chandler, MDCPS
Sunnybrook Children’s Home
222 Sunnybrook Road
Ridgeland, MS 39157

November 17, 2016, 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Train Depot
230 N. Maple Street
Laurel, MS 39440

November 17, 2016, 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
First Baptist Church
150 Deveraux Drive
Natchez, MS 39120

November 18, 2016, 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Mt Wade M. B. Church
749 North Jackson Street
Brookhaven, MS 39601

November 19, 2016, 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Church of the King
920 Cedar Lake Road
Biloxi, MS 39532

November 19, 2016, 12:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Fannie Lou Hamer Complex
929 Byron Street
Ruleville, MS 38771

November 29, 2016, 5:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Grenada County, MDCPS Building
1240 Fairground Road
Grenada, MS 38901

If you need additional information about any of these events, please contact Chris Alexander at chris.alexander@mdcps.ms.gov or call 1.800.821.9157 if you’d like to learn more about adoption.

   
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PRESS RELEASE: Heart Gallery Reveal Adoption Event at the Mississippi Children’s Museum on October 25th


JACKSON, Miss. — The Mississippi Department of Child Protection Services (MDCPS) has collaborated with Southern Christian Services for Children and Youth to construct a large portable gallery containing photographs of children currently anticipating finding their forever families through adoption.

The Mississippi Heart Gallery Reveal Adoption Event is scheduled for 3 p.m. at the Mississippi Children’s Museum in Jackson on October 25th. You can expect to hear from First Lady Deborah Bryant, while MS NEWS NOW’s Maggie Wade and MDCPS Commissioner, Dr. David Chandler will be in attendance, as well as a host of others with a heart for adoption.

Presley Smith, age 11, will be reciting “We Pray for Children” by Ina Hughes. Presley is the daughter of Sabrea and Michael Farris Smith; Mrs. Smith has years of child welfare experience and was instrumental in the development of resources for foster families across the state and Mr. Smith is the award winning author of Rivers and The Hands of Strangers. This isn’t the first time Presley has aided in the recruitment of foster and adoptive homes; she appeared in a brochure at the age of seven with that goal in mind.

Photographers across the state have volunteered their time and talent to contribute the 16 by 20 photographs that will be exhibited during the event alongside each featured child’s biography.
MDCPS recently launched the online Heart Gallery which displays a complete listing of all the Mississippi children who need adoptive homes, including photographs and profiles. Visit mdcps.ms.gov/mississippi-heart-gallery/ to view the precious children presently awaiting adoption and to learn more about becoming a foster or adoptive parent.

For more information about this event, please contact Leah Hill with Southern Christian Services for Children and Youth at 601.354.0983 or scscyLeah@att.net.

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PRESS RELEASE: Foster parent training scheduled for Central Mississippi


JACKSON, Miss.— The Mississippi Department of Child Protection Services (MDCPS) has again partnered with Mississippi Children’s Home Services, Southern Christian Services for Children and Youth, the Mississippi Community Education Center, and 200 Million Flowers to host another foster parent training weekend, this time at Mississippi College in Clinton, October 21-23.

rescue-100

This is the third “Rescue 100” event to take place this year. “We started in south Mississippi and we are working our way through the state,” MDCPS Commissioner, Dr. David Chandler said. “The previous two Rescue 100 events were very successful in bolstering the number of available foster homes both in the Pine Belt and on the Coast of Mississippi. MDCPS is excited to once again partner with our affiliates to work towards licensing even more foster parents so that we can better serve the children of Central Mississippi.”

There are currently over 1,000 children in foster care in Central Mississippi, and there are 272 licensed foster homes. Previously, completing the licensing process took several months, with individual classes scheduled each week. In an effort to address the immediate need for more foster parents in the area, Rescue 100 will pack into three days, all the classes that foster parents are required to complete in order to become licensed. MDCPS or a private agency will then follow up with individual home visits shortly afterwards.

Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Dawn Beam, who chairs the Mississippi Commission on Children’s Justice, is spearheading the organization of the Rescue 100 programs to more efficiently train foster parents. “We have a tremendous need for loving foster homes for our children. This is an exciting effort working with the courts, local child protection staff, nonprofit organizations and local churches to wrap their arms around our children and their families,” she said.

Prospective foster parents should reside in one of the following Central Mississippi counties: Attala, Hinds, Holmes, Issaquena, Leake, Madison, Rankin, Scott, Sharkey, Warren or Yazoo and are required to first attend any one of the one-hour Orientation Classes scheduled for 6 p.m. and listed below:

October 10 – Madison Chancery Courthouse, 146 West Center Street in Canton

October 11 – Hinds Chancery Courthouse, 316 South President Street in Jackson

October 12 – Warren Chancery Courtroom, 1009 Cherry Street in Vicksburg

October 13 – Rankin County Circuit Courtroom, 215 East Government Street in Brandon

Rescue 100 is a collaborative effort among government, the faith-based community and the private sector to train more foster parents to take care of abused and neglected children. Pastors, judges, potential parents and others interested in our efforts to address the foster parent shortage are invited to attend and can register online at http://www.200millionflowers.org/rescue100/scheduled-training.



PRESS RELEASE: Committee formed to combat drug use by Mississippi’s coastal parents


BAY ST. LOUIS, Miss. — Chancellor Sandy Steckler is hosting a very special appreciation luncheon on Thursday, August 18 at noon. The event is being held at the Longfellow Civic Center in Bay St. Louis, to thank the Hancock County Task Force for their dedication to the children and families of Hancock County. Dr. David Chandler, Commissioner of the Mississippi Department of Child Protection Services (MDCPS) will be in attendance and will officially announce the formation of a new committee designed to address issues related to the rising number of coastal parents who partake in the use of illegal drugs.

Commissioner Chandler and Chief Justice Bill Waller have spoken at length about the growing problem and have agreed to appoint Justice Michael Randolph to chair the newly formed committee. First Lady, Deborah Bryant, has also agreed to serve on the committee that will study various reduction methods and explore implementation of programs to aide in lowering drug use among Mississippi’s coastal parents. One of the committee’s first tasks will be to solicit the coastal judiciary for recommendations of additional qualified members who are interested in serving our state in this important capacity.

MDCPS is looking forward to working closely with the members of this anti-drug committee and assisting in its efforts to investigate how together, we can fight the war on drugs in order to prevent child abuse and neglect, and protect the children of Mississippi.

PRESS RELEASE: 6th Annual Indian Child Welfare Conference takes place in Choctaw

CHOCTAW, Miss. — The Sixth Annual Indian Child Welfare Act Conference was held on August 10 at the Silver Star Convention Center in Choctaw, Mississippi.

Tribal leaders and more than 150 attorneys, judges, social workers and other professionals who work with Native American children in a Youth Court setting were in attendance.

The opening ceremony included the National Anthem sung in the Choctaw language. Chief Phyllis J. Anderson of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians and Mississippi Department of Child Protection Services Commissioner, Dr. David Chandler, spoke before retired Judge William A. Thorne Jr. of the Utah Court of Appeals gave the keynote address. Judge Thorne also discussed ethics and the basics of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). 

Following lunch, a Native American tribal perspective on raising children was the topic of the next presentation by Harold “Doc” Comby, Deputy Director of Internal Operations and Law Enforcement for the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, and attorney Drew Taylor, Tribal Prosecutor for Child Welfare. Tribal Director of Court Services, Don Mittan, and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney, Kevin Payne, then addressed the topic of child endangerment. A panel discussion followed about how ICWA cases proceed in court, which included Tanya Phillips of the Tribal Attorney General’s Office, Child Welfare Supervisor, Albert Smith, of the Choctaw Tribe and Iris Joiner, Region IV-N Director of the Mississippi Department of Child Protection Services. 

ICWA is a 1978 law which sets federal requirements which apply to state child custody proceedings involving any Native American child who is a member of or eligible for membership in a federally recognized tribe. ICWA gives the child’s tribe and family the opportunity to be involved in decisions affecting services for the child. ICWA sets out federal requirements regarding removal and placement of Native American children in foster or adoptive homes and allows the child’s tribe to intervene. 

The annual conference began six years ago as an effort to educate state judges and social workers on the requirements of the Indian Child Welfare Act. About 3,500 of the approximately 10,000 members of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians live in communities outside reservations, said Chief Justice Kevin Briscoe of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians Supreme Court. Judge Thorne, a Pomo/Coast Miwok Indian, is former president and current vice-president of the National Indian Justice Center, a nonprofit that trains tribal courts and others across the country. He retired in 2013 from the Utah Court of Appeals. He served for more than 34 years as a tribal court judge in Utah, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, Wisconsin, South Dakota, Nevada, California, Nebraska and Michigan. He is a former member of the Board of Directors for National CASA, Court Appointed Special Advocates. He was formerly a member of the PEW Commission on Foster Care, the Board of Directors for the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, the Board of Trustees for the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges and the ABA Steering Committee on the Unmet Legal Needs of Children. 

The conference was a collaborative effort among the Tribal Courts of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, the Attorney General’s Office of the Choctaw Tribe, the Children’s Bureau Capacity Building Center for Tribes, the Mississippi Administrative Office of Courts, the Mississippi Judicial College, the Mississippi Department of Child Protection Services, the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, and state Youth Court judges and referees.

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