SuperTalk Mississippi

Mississippi looks to Michigan to reform foster care system

Photo courtesy of the MSU extension service.

Mississippi officials hope to learn from Michigan ways to improve training of child welfare workers and the judiciary to increase access to federal funding for children in foster care.

Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Dawn Beam, chair of the Commission on Children’s Justice, Mississippi Judicial College Director Randy Pierce, who is a former Supreme Court justice, Resident Jurist John Hudson and Mississippi Department of Child Protection Services officials attended a Dec. 11 conference at the Michigan Hall of Justice in Lansing to discuss ways to increase Mississippi foster children’s access to federal funds.

Discussion at the meeting focused on Michigan’s experience in improving its efforts to draw down foster care funding under Title IV-E of the Social Security Act.  Title IV-E provides for federal reimbursement for a portion of the maintenance and administrative costs of foster care for children who meet specified federal eligibility requirements.

The group said that by increasing the number of children receiving federal dollars for their ongoing support, Mississippi would be able to reduce state tax dollars spent on foster care.

“By working together, the Michigan Supreme Court and state child welfare officials have made Michigan a national model for getting the fundamentals of foster care funding right,” said Justice Beam. “We are ready to take what we learned back to Mississippi so that our courts and state officials can put Michigan’s experiences to work for the children of our state. We sincerely appreciate the invitation to meet with Michigan officials.  We are going to do whatever it takes to protect our children and meet the federal mandates.”

Mississippi officials hope to learn from Michigan how to improve training of child welfare workers and the judiciary so that they may better comply with federal requirements and increase access to federal funding for foster children who qualify for Title IV- E assistance.

Child welfare workers must document specific eligibility requirements, and the initial court order for removal of a child to Child Protection Services custody must include specific language so that the child may be identified as meeting the criteria for Title IV-E and a recent federal audit showed that Mississippi needs to improve performance in both of those areas to increase Title IV-E funding levels.

Mississippi Department of Child Protection Services Commissioner Jess H. Dickinson said, “Federal IV-E funds are a vital resource in our effort to provide a loving home for every child in our care,” said Mississippi Department of Child Protection Services Commissioner Jess H. Dickinson. “We are grateful to the state of Michigan for its willingness to share its time and experiences to teach us proven methods to improve access to these funds, and former Michigan Supreme Court Justice Maura Corrigan and Casey Family Programs for their effort and resources dedicated to arranging this event. We are also grateful to Justice Dawn Beam, Justice Randy Pierce, and Judge John Hudson for their willingness to represent our state judiciary at this meeting, and their commitment to lead our state courts in their part of this work.”

Former Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Maura D. Corrigan was one of the program hosts. Corrigan left the bench in 2011 to lead Michigan’s troubled child welfare agency for four years. Dickinson, Mississippi’s current head of Child Protection Services, and former Commissioner David Chandler followed the same path, retiring from the Mississippi Supreme Court to lead the Mississippi Department of Child Protection Services.

Dr. Chandler met Corrigan several years ago and enlisted her help. She visited Mississippi in March and is working to help the state improve its child welfare services. Corrigan now works as a consultant for Casey Family Programs, the nation’s largest nonprofit devoted to reforming foster care.

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