thin, overworked and underfunded, Mississippi's social services
are not doing enough to help keep at-risk children safe.
can do is the best we can do with what we've got, but that's not
good enough anymore. Our children deserve better," said Beth
Frizsell, director of strategic planning for the National Child
Welfare Resource Center for Organizational Improvement.
speaker at a summer colloquium sponsored by The University of Southern
Mississippi's School of Social Work and Pine Grove Recovery Center
at the Family YMCA on Friday, Frizsell delivered a mixed report
on the state of child welfare and mental health services in Mississippi.
address was followed by a panel discussion featuring experts in
the fields of education, social services, health and law, elaborating
on the theme "What Children Deserve in the 21st Century: Child
Welfare and Mental Health."
Forrest County Youth Court Judge Mike McPhail; Velma Hankins, coordinator
of the Title IV-E program at Jackson State University; Dr. Missy
Rowley, assistant professor of social work at Southern Miss; Dr.
Michael Forster, director of the Southern Miss School of Social
Work; and Billy Mangold, director of the Division of Family and
Children's Services for MDHS.
other states, Mississippi is doing a good job of safely reuniting
with their families those children taken from their homes due to
neglect, and doing a good job of keeping them there. However, too
many children - almost 40 percent as of 2000 - were still in custody
of the state, against an average of 31.5 percent nationally.
social workers in Mississippi are being asked to keep children safe,
while at the same time receiving fewer and fewer resources to do
their job effectively. The average caseload per field agent is 44
children, and in some counties, Frizsell said, there is only a single
case worker for the entire county.
In some counties,
caseloads exceed 100 children per worker, she said, even though
the federal guidelines recommend 12-23 cases per worker.
not being told we're getting more workers. Instead, we're being
told we're going to get more cuts, that we're going to go to a skeleton
crew," Frizsell said.
the problem is the heavy number of cases judges face in the court
system, Frizsell said. "The lack of court administrators, like
court clerks, slows the process." About 3,000 children in Mississippi
are currently in the foster care system due to abuse or neglect.
permanence and stability, said Frizsell, who prior to her national
role served as the Mississippi Department of Human Services' deputy
director for the Division of Family and Children's Services. "If
children must be moved from a situation, then timeliness is important.
Every day is like a year to a child."
the audience to "get active" by contacting state legislators
to fight the constant erosion of services for child welfare. "Too
often our elected officials are left out of the loop," she
to close some of the system's gaps, Frizsell said, is to collaborate
with other agencies, like mental health and educational institutions.
She also recommended maximizing federal support, or "drawing
down" federal dollars. "We can't be apathetic anymore.
We've got to protect our children," she said.
keynote address, the School of Social Work honored retiree Carolyn
Brooks with a plaque commemorating her 14 years of service to the
program as coordinator of field placements. "It's been a great
ride," Brooks said. "I spent more than a third of my professional
career at (Southern Miss)."
has been tapped to replace Brooks as the program's new coordinator
of field placements.