A Mississippi Miracle

January 27, 2016

In March of 2004, a battle began over the rights of abused and neglected children in the state of Mississippi. Today, the struggle rages on, as Mississippi fights to restore a broken system. The New York Times revealed the dismal story in a recent article, detailing the patterns of negligence that led to the clash in the courtroom.

According to their website, Children’s Rights, with a counsel of lawyers acting on behalf of every Mississippi child in the custody of the Department of Family and Children’s Services (DFCS), filed a lawsuit against DFCS alleging violations of the state’s obligations to protect the abused and neglected children in its custody, and of the children’s constitutional rights to due process. While settlements were reached and substantial reforms were made, more than a decade later, many regions continued to lag behind. Fast forward to today, and the state admits that it never actually complied with many of the mandatory regulations put into place to start with. Mississippi must now attempt to avoid becoming the first state to have its child welfare program put into receivership, in which an outside agency would be hired to run the system.

The Times reported that as of December 2015, the state recognized 1,486 licensed foster homes for the over 5,000 children in its care. Additionally, over 4,000 children are monitored by the state, while not being under its custody. This brings the number of documented at-risk children to almost 10,000. They also uncovered accounts of overwhelmed social workers leaving a child in an abusive situation or even destroying evidence of abuse in order to keep from adding to an already unmanageable caseload. While Governor Bryant has been quick to engage the situation, naming former Supreme Court Justice David Chandler as head of DFCS, the previous legislative session met only a fourth of his requested budget increase. It has become increasingly evident that while the need is astronomical, the resources are slim.

Enter Palmer Home for Children—an organization that has provided an alternative to the state foster care system for children in need since 1895.

Today, Palmer Home and its affiliates care for over 100 children, through residential care and foster care networks. While the need is still great, their impact cannot be ignored. President and CEO Drake Bassett says the organization is ready to become an even larger part of the solution.

Under Bassett’s leadership, Palmer Home for Children has drawn on 120 years of experience in childcare to develop the Whole Child Initiative, a comprehensive approach to caring for children that addresses the physical, emotional, educational, and spiritual needs of each child that comes into their care. Palmer Home is actively involved in training and equipping individuals and families through the Whole Child Initiative. Bassett describes the vision as a way to build “a privately funded foster care network that relieves financial pressure from the state and delivers people committed to doing this for all the right reasons.” He adds, “Our organization is prepared to work closely with Dr. Chandler and state officials to address the ongoing need and provide an answer for the children of Mississippi.”

As the 2016 legislative session continues and lawmakers work to decide the fate of the state-run system, Palmer Home for Children continues its mission. The results they see are nothing short of remarkable. From children improving by multiple grade levels in a single school year, to young adults regaining even the slightest proclivity for affection and trust, lives are being restored every day. Some might even call it a miracle. In light of tragedies revealed by The New York Times, one thing is for sure—lives are being transformed through Palmer Home for Children.


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