Number of children in DHS custody down in Hancock County - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Number of children in DHS custody down in Hancock County

Judge Deano and Judge Sandy Steckler presented the Hancock County Board of Supervisors with a new set of numbers on Thursday. (Photo source: WLOX News) Judge Deano and Judge Sandy Steckler presented the Hancock County Board of Supervisors with a new set of numbers on Thursday. (Photo source: WLOX News)
Numbers show a reduction of more than 100 children in custody over the past several years. (Photo source: WLOX News) Numbers show a reduction of more than 100 children in custody over the past several years. (Photo source: WLOX News)
HANCOCK COUNTY, MS (WLOX) -

A Mississippi Department of Human Services custody issue in Hancock County may be seeing a trend in the opposite direction.

The Child Protection Services in the county has been facing challenges with a large number of children in its care. But for youth court judges, not many statistics make them happier than hearing that the number of children in custody has gone down.

"Everything's starting to get on the track and work together like it's supposed to," said Judge Elise Deano.

Judge Deano and Judge Sandy Steckler presented the Hancock County Board of Supervisors with a new set of numbers on Thursday. Before then, Judge Steckler says CPS for the county was grossly understaffed. 

"The average number of cases that a case worker can handle is about seven. They can get up to about 15 max and manage it. Well, you can see that the numbers just didn't crunch. They had as many as 90 cases per case worker to deal with," said Steckler.

However, Steckler says an effort over several years to put more boots on the ground has really begun to pay off.

"The reality is it's resulted in great things for our families and kids," said Deano.

Numbers show a reduction of more than 100 children in custody over the past several years. According Judge Steckler, the reduction has been the result of an effort between state and county officials.

Lisa Wilbourn, director of the county's relatively new children's emergency shelter, says the good news is a welcome change.

"It was talked about all across the Coast, really, about the issues that were going on in Hancock County," said Wilbourn, who noted that her job couldn't be done without the increase in trained staff and volunteers. "It takes a huge component of everybody working together to get this back to reasonable numbers." 

Those who are leading the effort hope numbers will only continue to go down. Judge Steckler's next focus is to form a reliable volunteer group to continue the work that's happening.

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