Task force sheds light on high number of Hancock County children in state custody

Task force sheds light on high number of Hancock County children in state custody
The task force is looking for solutions to the problem of child neglect. (Photo source: WLOX News)

HANCOCK COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Drug addiction and subsequent child abuse and neglect in Hancock County soared in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. That's according to a Hancock County Youth Court Task Force study.

On Thursday, Judge Sandy Steckler spoke to a room full of people dedicated to helping children in need. Many of them are a part of a task force created to delve into the issue of why Hancock County has such a large number of children going into DHS custody.

"The problem initially that we had was not enough DHS workers to do the job," said Steckler. "The average in the state is 7 cases per case worker. Hancock county was up to 50 cases per case worker."

Steckler said the task force found that the county's biggest drug problem stemmed from people who moved here after being displaced by Hurricane Katrina and that about 75% of the cases where children had to be removed from their homes are drug related.

"A lot of those people don't have a support system to help them, they're easy prey to drug dealers," said Steckler.

Task force member and Hancock County Youth Court Judge Elise Deano said she sees drug addiction as a problem over and over again in her court. She said what the county really needs is more inpatient beds for parents who want to kick their drug addictions.

"I think what the task force has done is really shine attention to all the problems," said Deano.

Cynthia Chauvin with CASA of Hancock County said community members who want to help children live in a healthy environment can volunteer.

"CASA gives the community a chance to get involved by presenting those facts to the court based on what's in the child's best interest," said Chauvin.

Click here for information on how to volunteer with CASA.

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