Foster care crisis is one of the reasons for possible tax increase

Hancock County is experiencing a foster care crisis. (Photo source: WLOX News)
Hancock County is experiencing a foster care crisis. (Photo source: WLOX News)

HANCOCK COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Hancock County leaders say there are a number of reasons residents are facing a slight property tax increase later this year.

One of those reasons is the foster care crisis the county is experiencing. Hancock County has one of the highest rates of children in the Department of Human Services (DHS) custody in the state.

The answer to a lot of people's prayers--a temporary place for children to call home when their homes have been rocked with turmoil.

"I can't imagine anything worse than being pulled out of your home from your mom and dad. And the trauma that these children have been through. So my board's goal was and obviously the community's goal was that when these children enter this home they forget just for a second of why they were pulled from their parents home," said Lisa Cowand President of the Hancock County Board of Supervisors.

"Brenda's House" as it's called has only been open for about two months. Since that time it has taken in 19 children.

Shelter Director Lora Mederos said, "Unfortunately we didn't have room for about 11 more children we were asked to serve."

County leaders say the need for a shelter in Hancock County was critical. The number of children placed in DHS custody is 435. That's up by more than 200 within the past five years.

Before Brenda's House opened, children were driven as far away as Jackson for emergency shelter.

Mederos said, "Children are traumatized enough already. They don't need to be stuck in a car and have to drive three hours away to strangers. It's better to keep them here at home, where they can stay in their own schools and hopefully get home quicker to their parents."

When the need for a shelter became apparent county leaders say they knew they had to act to fund the facility.

"It was an unexpected expenditure, but very worth it," said Cowand.

They budgeted $250,000 to run the facility for its first year.

"It's not a question of how much it costs. We can't ignore it. We've got an issue here in the county we've got to address it. We did come in under budget because people have been so generous," explained Cowand.

Mederos said, "This is hopefully a happy home for them."

County leaders say the property tax increase will be a little more than $30 a year for a $100,000 home.

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