DHS, Children’s Rights reaches yet another agreement

JACKSON — Mississippi officials and a group that sued over the state’s child welfare system have reached a third settlement.

At the center of the new proposal is the hiring of a “director for sustainable transformation” at the Mississippi Department of Human Services to oversee efforts to improve the agency’s ability to protect and support children in foster care.

Marcia Robinson Lowry, executive director for New York-based Children’s Rights, said the position is to be filled by Nov. 1 for the state to avoid further legal action. The state and the plaintiffs would jointly choose the director.

“We are glad that the state has recognized the significant lack of capacity that has led to its failure to implement required reforms. We are hopeful that creating a new team, which includes a national search for its director and has an advisory panel of experts, will jump start this effort,” she said in a news release.

The Olivia Y. case was filed in 2004, alleging that the state’s foster care system and investigations of abused children violated children’s constitutional rights. The state settled in 2008, and although both sides agreed the state has progressed, both Mississippi and Children’s Rights agreed more work is needed.

A modified settlement agreement was approved in 2012 and contained an action plan to address the state’s consistent failure to meet court-ordered performance standards, but an independent federal monitor found Mississippi was still failing to produce key data, including complete measures of how many cases each worker has.

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