Commission on Children’s Justice begins new program in Pearl River County
Published 7:00 am Friday, October 14, 2016
A new program designed by the Commission on Children’s Justice will to be unveiled Friday during their meeting at the Mississippi Supreme Court.
Deborah Bryant and Supreme Court Justice Dawn Beam, co-chairs of the program, will present their project, ReNewMS, which was designed to prevent child abuse and neglect, starting in Marion, Pearl River and Hancock counties, according to a press release from the state Supreme Court’s office.
The program will be piloted in those counties due to the high rate of child abuse and neglect associated with drug abuse, the release states.
There are 226 children in state custody from Pearl River County, 148 due to parental drug abuse, the release states.
According to Mississippi Department of Human Services data from 2014, 155 cases of children being victims of neglect and abuse were substantiated.
This number has fluctuated slightly in recent years, according to MDHS data.
Marion County has 254 children in state custody, 129 of them were in a home where one or more parents abused drugs, while Hancock County had the most cases of the three with 327 children in custody and 214 with indications of parental drug abuse, according to the release.
Other factors leading to a child being removed from a home are also taken into consideration, the release states.
Neglect can include a lack of medical care, supervision, clothing and hygiene, nutrition, or shelter, all of which are essential to a child’s basic needs being met, according to the MDHS website.
“Over the past several years, there has been an increase in the number of children that needed to be removed from their homes, and drug abuse by the children’s parents has been a significant reason in this increase,” Commissioner of Child Protection Services Dr. David Chandler said in the release, citing a statistic that 40 percent of cases invovled drug abuse as a factor. “It is important that everyone concerned with this issue works together, and we are excited by the opportunity to do that through ReNewMS.”
The ReNewMS program aims to provide drug treatment and prevention serves to help parents maintain a drug-free life, according to the release.
“The emphasis is on healing families so that they can be reunited,” the release states.
Beam has personal ties to the program due to her experiences dealing with cases in which members of a family abused drugs while she was a chancellor of the 10th District, which includes Marion and Pearl River counties, the release states.
Although removing children from an environment involving drug abuse is in their best interest, it often worsens the parent’s addiction, according to the release.
“What we have to acknowledge is that these mothers grew up in dysfunctional homes where they experienced physical abuse, sexual abuse, hunger. We have to get to the root of this and break the cycle,” Justice Beam said in the release.
The program will guide parents through drug treatment, parenting classes and help them find employment and housing in order to meet their needs and unify families, states the release.
ReNewMS will work in conjunction with the Commission on Children’s Justice—organized by the Mississippi Supreme Court—the Mississippi Department of Child Protection Services, the Department of Mental Health and the University of Southern Mississippi as well as nonprofits and local churches, according to the release.