Foster crisis dominates talk around Hancock Co. water coolers
January 7, 2015 at 4:25 AM CST - Updated July 2 at 10:15 AM
HANCOCK COUNTY, MS (WLOX)
A day after a task force came together for its first meeting to look at the foster care crisis in Hancock County, the problem continues to be the talk of the town.
Many residents are hopeful the task force will be able to implement the changes that are desperately needed to reduce the record number of children currently in DHS custody.
"I think last night was the beginning of a success story. I think we have miles to go. I think we have a lot of issues that need to be resolved," said Lisa Cowand.
Judging from the turnout at the task force's very first meeting, County Supervisor and task force member Lisa Cowand will get no argument there.
"If there is a problem in DHS, let's fix it. If there is a problem in the youth court system, lets fix it. There's got to be resolution where these children all in all go back home if at all possible," said Cowand.
She said the task force is off to a good start. The information that surfaced both from task force members and the public will go a long way in getting to the root of the problem.
"70 percent of the people that got up to speak owned up to where the problem began. You can point the fingers wherever you want, but until you get into the mirror and you point it at your own chest, you're the one guilty and say I did it, but I'm working to fix it or I have fixed it and I still can't get my kids back. There's the disconnect," explained Cowand.
That's exactly where Michelle Page points her finger.
"They took my children for 18 months. They placed them in foster care. They didn't try to investigate the household. They didn't try to place my kids with family. They did none of that," said Page.
Page says she eventually got her children back 10 years ago but wishes a task force had been formed back then.
"Parents are fighting for their children, and DHS makes it almost impossible for them to get their children back. There's no reason not to give someone their children back because they don't have a driver's license. You're not required by the State of Mississippi to have a driver's license to have a child," said Page.
Page and others hope the task force can identify the problems and get them corrected.
"There is no room for failure. This is about family," Cowand said.
The task force will meet twice a month for the next six months in hopes of identifying the problems. The committee will then turn over a report to the board of supervisors with recommendations for changes.
The task force will meet again Jan. 23, at 4 p.m. at the County Government Complex on Highway 90 in Bay St. Louis.