Coast Lawmaker Questions Efforts To Hire More Social Workers

Representative Roger Ishee says he disgusted with what's going on at the Department of Social Service. Ishee personally delivered a letter to Governor Ronnie Musgrove Wednesday questioning why Harrison County still has just nine social workers on the job. He says simply there aren't enough social workers to handling the hundreds and hundreds of child abuse and neglect cases in our area.

In February, social workers in the most overworked counties thought their prayers were answered when Governor Ronnie Musgrove signed a bill giving DHS $1.1 million dollars to hire more social workers. Harrison County is at the top of that list. Today, there are just nine social workers.

Representative Ishee said nothing's changed in the past six months.

"It's actually to me a misuse of resources and we cannot afford this any longer. I'm fed up with it. I want some answers and the sooner the better. I also want some social workers here because Representative Diana Paranich and I walked the halls. She found the money, I found the co sponsors, we got the bill passed... We're not looking for glory, we're looking for taking care of these children." Rep.Roger Ishee said.

According to a report Ishee gave us, Harrison County's social workers are trying to handle more than 1,100 cases. That means nine workers are assigned 128 cases each.

In Stone County, there's only one social worker to handle 113 cases, and only 10 social workers in Jackson County to handle 94 cases each.

Beth Casey of the group "Professionals Advocating For Children Together" says despite all the news coverage about the problems with DHS, promises of money and personnel have been empty.

"I think that what it says is that we as a community are not as interested in helping the children as we are in promoting ourselves," Casey said. "You always hear all this talk about economic growth and jobs and the economy, and while those things are very important... the children are our future, and if we do not take care of them, all of this that we're doing now is for nothing."

In his letter to the governor, Representative Ishee cited a report that calculates the numbers of social workers needed right now to give each neglected child a fighting chance. Harrison County needs 15, Jackson County needs nine and two more each are needed in Stone, Pearl River and Hancock Counties.

We wanted to get Governor Musgrove's response to Roger Ishee's letter, but his office did not answer our requests for a comment. A statement from DHS says the department is trying to hire more social workers. But despite recruitment efforts at Mississippi and Alabama colleges and newspaper ads, DHS has had only one person apply for a job as a social worker.