Mississippi system

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Mississippi system

Postby Marina » Sat Nov 10, 2007 8:28 pm


http://www.clarionledger.com/apps/pbcs. ... S/71108009

November 8, 2007

Settlement reached in Miss. child welfare suit

The Clarion-Ledger

Attorneys representing 3,500 abused and neglected children in Mississippi?s child welfare system have reached a preliminary settlement to resolve a federal class action lawsuit against the state, according to the national child advocacy group that brought the suit.

The settlement agreement mandates top-to-bottom reform to be implemented over five years at the Mississippi Department of Human Services, according to New York-based Children's Rights, which enlisted a team of attorneys from Mississippi and across the country for the lawsuit filed in 2004.

The agreement, if approved by the court would require DHS to better protect children from maltreatment in foster care and place them in permanent homes as quickly as possible instead of moving them among multiple homes and institutions, according to Children?s Rights. DHS also would have to reduce its workers' caseloads, increase the frequency of caseworker visits to children in foster care, develop new services, increase reimbursement rates for foster parents, and provide timely health-care services to the children

"After decades of maintaining a system widely known to place abused and neglected children in further danger, Mississippi has finally made a legally enforceable commitment to fix it," Marcia Robinson Lowry, founder and executive director of Children's Rights, said in a news release.

In a joint news release with Attorney General Jim Hood, Gov. Haley Barbour said: ?Foster care is a challenge for every state because of the complexities involved in caring for these most vulnerable children. Since only a handful of states are accredited in this area I expect this settlement to help create a system in Mississippi that will become a national model for how these essential services can best be delivered.?

Said Hood: ?It will require a great deal of hard work on the part of Human Services to fulfill the terms of this agreement. Our office supports the settlement and applauds DHS? commitment to improving the quality of services provided to foster children in our state.?

The lawsuit alleges incidences of sexual abuse, unqualified employees and fiscal mismanagement, among other problems.

Plaintiffs' counsel on the case includes Children's Rights; Wayne Drinkwater and Melody McAnally of Bradley Arant Rose & White; Stephen Leech, attorney at law of Jackson, MS; and John Lang, John Piskora, and Christian D. Carboneof Loeb & Loeb LLP of New York, NY.


Posts: 5496
Joined: Sat Feb 25, 2006 3:06 pm

Postby Marina » Fri Nov 28, 2008 8:25 pm


Scott County, MS 11/17/08
Austin Watkins' mother says she's been clean for years

Posted: Nov 17, 2008 08:48 PM EST

Updated: Nov 26, 2008 08:59 AM EST

Mother claims no drug use in years
Insurance policy confirmed on little Austin Watkins

By Bert Case - bio | email

SCOTT COUNTY, MS (WLBT) - The 24 year-old mother of little Austin James Watkins, maintains the Department of Human Services was wrong in taking her child away from her and putting him in custody of his grandmother and aunt, who are now charged with his murder.

She says she does not have a drug problem, although she admits her husband, who is the father of the child, who is in jail on drug and statutory rape charges, is the one with the problem.

"I have not done any drugs, since, I would say 2000. I had one in 2002, I mean I am willing take a drug test, tomorrow, any day. I mean I do not do drugs, I have not done drugs," Tammy Watkins said.

We asked Wakins how she lost Austin.

"Because ah they claimed that my house was unkempt,"Watkins' replied.

Watkins was in a Department of Human Services hearing Monday trying to get custody of her other children, who were in the trailer, with the starvation victim. They are 6-year-old Kenney Watkins, and 9-year-old Erin Jones. Another child in the trailer was 4-year old Courtney Bell, their cousin.

"I heard she was treatin Austin bad back in '06, you know and I called and DHS said they went out there, and they didn't see no bruises on him or anything," Watkins replied.

Sheriff Mike Lee of Scott County explained the purpose of the DHS hearing.

"The mother was going to see about getting custody back, and pretty much DHS was making sure that these children stayed in protective custody," Sheriff Lee said.

The sheriff also confirmed there was an insurance policy on the child that died.

"There was a life insurance policy, it may be another motive, we are searching right now for anything for answers," added Sheriff Lee.

The grandmother and aunt of Austin are still being held in the Scott County jail and no date has been set for a preliminary hearing.

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