Social workers, fosters parents needed badly

HANCOCK COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - A lack of social workers to handle a growing number of case loads for the Department of Human Services (DHS) in Hancock County is far beyond the critical point according to the Hope Haven Children's Services Director.

The DHS office has been under staffed since Hurricane Katrina and just last week it lost three more social workers which leaves only six to oversee more than 200 cases.

Hope Haven Children's Services donates filled back-packs and goods to DHS for the kids.

"Because these kids of course are upset," Director of Hope Haven Children's Services Terry Latham said.

Latham is director of Hope Haven Children's Services; the non-profit organization offers support to DHS.

He says the meth epidemic, as well as post Katrina stress, have resulted in a record number of children being placed in the care of DHS.

"Over 30 children were picked up last week alone," Latham said.

He says the stress involved with the job as well as low wages and huge case loads have made it tough to keep qualified social workers.

Latham said, "More experienced social workers have more than 50 children assigned to them. You just can not take adequate care of the children when you have that high of a case load."

Latham says the county needs around 15 social workers, but right now DSH doesn't even have half that amount. Another problem the county faces is a lack of foster families.

Latham: "We need more foster parents. We need more people in Hancock County to say you know something, 'These are our children. They live here in our county. They're going to grow up to be our neighbors. My kids are going to go to school with them.'"

He says right now Hancock County only has 10 foster families, and it needs at least 20 more.

A DHS spokeswoman say they are working to fill the social work positions. She would not comment on where they are in the process.

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