State departments have already begun making their budget requests for FY2019. That includes the Mississippi Department of Child Protective Services who are asking for a $15 million dollar increase in general funds.
The budget proposal for FY2019 is $249,353,128 which includes $113,241,063 in state general funds. MDCPS said the increase in necessary after the recent separation from the Department of Human Services.
The increase in general funds will go towards 108 field support staff to facilitate the agency’s foster care, adoption, and child protection responsibilities. That includes 60 new positions to run the agencies 24-hour child abuse/neglect/exploitation reporting and investigations hotline.
“It is an unfortunate fact that Mississippi has many thousands of abused and neglected children. and sadly, with the rampant drug epidemic we are experiencing, that number grows every year,” said MDCPS Commissioner Jess H. Dickinson. “Our budget request reflects the importance of providing protection to these vulnerable children. We feel confident that with adequate funding and hard work, we can achieve a level of protection for these children that not only will make us a leader in child protection, but also will allow us to exit the federal court Olivia Y litigation that has been pending since 2004.”
Dickinson recently became the MDCPS Commissioner on September 18.
Tracy Malone, deputy commissioner for child welfare said the long term goal is to build a sustainable system where they are able to reduce the number of children in the foster care system by cutting down on financial need. However, she said until that can be done there must be a higher investment of tax payer dollars.
The MDCPS is asking for roughly 17.9 percent less in total spending authority of FY2019. State funding is vital to the agency’s ability to comply with federal court settlement agreement that requires MDCPS to meet specific performance standards related to the foster care system.
“We cannot afford to back away from this commitment. To accomplish the tasks in front of us, we must continue to have ongoing support from the legislature. It is vital to MDCPS and to the children of Mississippi for the Legislature to maintain at least our current level of funding,” said Dickinson.
In May of 2016 Gov. Phil Bryant signed Senate Bill 2179 which made MDCPS an independent agency and the 2016 Mississippi Legislature significantly increased the agency’s budget. This allowed the agency to increase the number of social workers employed in order to meet the needs of children and families across the state.
Malone said consistent state funding will allow MDCPS “to enact systemic reform in Mississippi that directly impacts the lives of the children and families statewide.”