Teams of child protection professionals will gather for training in Oxford, Madison, and Gulfport to help child protection workers, Youth Court judges and referees, Youth Court prosecutors, and attorneys for parents and children, guardians ad litem to learn how to evaluate the safety of children.
The training will include how to balance the safety of children versus risk factors in determining whether they should be removed to foster care or can remain safely at home.
The federal Family First Prevention Services Act, FFPSA, emphasizes prevention of abuse and neglect by providing services that families need, rather than removing children from parents’ custody. The federal law redirects some federal spending to child neglect prevention in an effort to reduce the need for children to enter foster care.
“Family is one of the most valued treasures that a child can have,” said Rankin County Youth Court Judge Thomas Broome, co-chair of the Commission on Children’s Justice and chairman of the Mississippi Council of Youth Court Judges. “Children have to feel safe and loved, and they thrive when there is a low risk of harm to them. The training will focus on whether the current conditions in a home or family pose an immediate threat of danger to children,” he said. “There will also be an effort to identify strengths and protective factors that families bring to the table. The goal is to have parents and agencies work together.”
Judge Broome added that the team aspect will allow participants to join in critical training, bringing everyone to the table to talk the same language and share common core values.
“The whole point is that we are trying to get everyone to focus on prevention rather than …removal of children from the custody of their parents,” said Mary Fuller, Youth Court Programs Director of the Administrative Office of Courts.
The number of children in state custody reached a high of more than 6,100 in July 2017, according to the Mississippi Department of Child Protection Services. Now, the number of children in state custody in cases of suspected abuse and neglect has declined to fewer than 4,700 as of May 1st, 2019.