New Laws Will Help Protect Mississippi's Children

Some of last year's child abuse cases were the most horrific in Mississippi history.

"We had a 9-month-old who was raped and murdered, a 21-month-old baby girl who was raped, sodomized and murdered," Department of Human Services Exec. Director Colonel Don Taylor said.

Those are just two of the 13 child abuse deaths in Mississippi between August of 2004 and 2005. Last year, 18,000 cases of abuse were reported to DHS and 4,000 of those were substantiated.

Currently, there are 3500 children in Mississippi's foster care system.

"We must do everything we can to help the most vulnerable of our children," Gov. Haley Barbour said.

Governor Barbour says new legislation will help that cause. Right now, nearly 200 children are available for adoption in Mississippi. The governor signed a bill Monday to encourage more families to adopt, by offering them a tax credit of up to $2500.

Barbour will also sign another bill that will add 70 new case workers to do foster care site visits. An alternative certification process will no longer require a college degree in social work.

"That was an unnecessary impediment. It is good to get rid of that impediment," Barbour said.

As a month of prevention begins, one child abuse survivor is among those wanting better child abuse education so more children will speak out and more adults will react.

"They don't have to go through their whole lives going through what I went through for many, many years," Helen Williams said.

April marks "The Month of the Child" in Mississippi, an effort to raise awareness about and prevent child abuse. You can pick up blue ribbons at any DHS office to show your support.

To report abuse or neglect, call the Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-222-8000.

by Wendy Suares