The explosion of crystal meth has affected families throughout the state. This, and the residual effects of Hurricane Katrina on Gulf Coast, has increased the pressure on state government to provide quality foster care services. Governor Barbour agrees with the Executive Director of the Department of Human Services, Col. Don Taylor, that there are legislative steps which should be taken to improve the system which serves more than 3000 of Mississippi’s most vulnerable children and families.
The Administration’s legislative proposals are centered on increasing the quality and quantity of social workers who are involved in direct care:
• Enlarge the potential pool of caseworkers by creating an alternative certification process for social workers. People of different backgrounds are qualified to be a direct care social worker for foster care, but current law requires a licensed social worker to have a college degree in social work. This is an unnecessary impediment for many who wish to enter the field.
• Remove the restrictive language contained in the DHS annual appropriations bill which restricts the Executive Director’s ability to properly manage the Department’s responsibilities by preventing any promotions or salary increases through reallocation, reclassification, realignment, education benchmark, or career ladder. This language impedes the Executive Director’s ability to properly deploy foster care workers to meet demonstrated needs.
• To improve retention and morale within DHS, combine the three job classifications currently involved in direct foster care into one (entitled Child Protection Worker) and increase the salary for this job classification by an amount which recognizes the difficult and sometimes dangerous situations in which these state employees work. This plan will allow flexibility among all positions and thus maximize the availability of direct care workers.
• Family preservation programs are designed to keep a family together in a safe manner and therefore prevent the need to place a child in foster care. By outsourcing these programs to the private sector, more than 40 social workers can be immediately transferred to direct care.
• The current structure of DHS requires that vulnerable adult investigations be conducted by the Division of Family and Children Services. However, this is overly burdensome on the case workers who specialize more in child cases. By transferring this authority to the Division of Aging and creating additional positions in that Division to handle the new responsibilities, vulnerable adult case work will improve and more social workers will be focused on direct foster care.
• Restore the authorized positions for what will become Child Protection Workers so that DHS will have the authority to hire more direct care workers as they become available.
Governor Haley Barbour
P.O. Box 139 Jackson, MS 39205
Phone: 601.359.3150 Fax: 601.359.3741