Children's shelter director: Bad economy equals more abuse - - The News for South Mississippi

Children's shelter director: Bad economy equals more abuse & neglect

By Danielle Thomas – bio | email

BAY ST LOUIS, MS (WLOX) - When it comes to abused and neglected children, Mississippi ranks among the highest numbers in the country. That is according to the director of Hope Haven, a local children's shelter. Director Terry Latham says a weak economy is making the problem worse.

The people who walked or jogged across the Bay St. Louis bridge on Saturday weren't just doing it to improve their health. They were also improving the lives of the children living in foster care.

"The people of the community should get out and support them," Byron Lynch, a participant.

The money raised in the walk will go Hope Haven, a shelter for children removed from their homes by the Mississippi Department of Human Services.

Hope Haven Director Terry Latham said while child abuse and neglect are major problems throughout the state, here on the coast, cases are on the rise.

"We saw a 300 percent increase in domestic violence and child abuse and neglect after Katrina," said Latham. "Now the economy. There are so many people that are just hanging on by their finger nails trying to make it day by day. That just adds an awful lot of stress on families."

Hope Haven also provides emergency money to families struggling to pay their bills. The shelter helped 450 families last year.

Unfortunately, Latham says in this tight economy more and more parents are becoming financially overwhelmed.

"People being out of work. Parents coming up and just saying, 'We can't care for our kids,'" said Latham. "I get a call at least once a week from a family that says, 'We don't know what we're going to do. We can't take care of our kids.' It's sad."

Hope Haven officials say they believe they are making a difference, and it helps to know the community is with them every step of the way.

Latham said, "We raise almost $500,000 a year and certainly 90 percent of that is spent directly on children and families."

Hope Haven takes in neglected and abused children from across the coast. It also sponsors summer camps and Christmas parties for children living with foster families.

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