Contact: Charles Siler
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: NEW BILL EMPOWERS MISSISSIPPI COMMUNITIES TO HELP FAMILIES IN CRISIS
BILL CREATING FOSTER CARE ALTERNATIVE PASSES LEGISLATURE
Families experiencing a short-term crisis in Mississippi hopefully will have a new place to turn for help, their own communities, thanks to a bill just sent to Gov. Phil Bryant that enjoyed bi-partisan support in the Legislature. The bill is modeled after a program known as “Safe Families for Children” which has successfully helped tens of thousands of families across the country navigate temporary problems since 2002.
SB 2493 creates a safe haven for children in need, providing a stable environment that shields them from neglect while their families resolve issues ranging from unemployment, homelessness, hospitalization, or even brief incarceration. One of the major things that makes this program different from foster care is that the parents retain full rights throughout the process and the state is uninvolved. This enables communities to address problems earlier than the state legally could, and it allows families to solve problems before they get out of control, resulting in faster family reunifications.
“Nearly all of us know a family who has suffered through a temporary hardship, like unemployment, homelessness, hospitalization, or similar and it’s tragic to see these situations occasionally spiral out of control, especially when there are kids involved,” said Sen. David Parker (R – Dist. 2), lead author of SB 2493 and a champion for Mississippi’s children.
“That’s why I hope Gov. Bryant signs this bill into law so we can harness the power of Mississippi’s hospitality and sense of community. We want people to be comfortable reaching out to their neighbors for help, and we want to recognize the critical role volunteers can play in making the difference in the lives of a struggling family.”
While foster care is a vital tool in protecting Mississippi’s children, many social workers are burdened with huge and unmanageable caseloads, leaving children exposed. This bill will allow families in need to connect with trained and vetted host families to resolve their own problems, which will lighten the load for state social workers who can now focus more serious cases involving abusive neglect and physical or sexual abuse.
“Safe Families is an example of the kinds of innovative reform that Mississippi needs, reforms that empower neighbors and families to take the lead in helping people in crisis,” said Dr. Jameson Taylor of the Mississippi Center for Public Policy.
“Safe Families puts kids and parents first by sidestepping the trap of government bureaucracy and connecting people one-on-one.”
Local child and family advocates along with public policy groups celebrated the bill’s signing, excited that they now have a legal framework for their support of those in need in their communities.
“Bethany Christian Services and the Safe Families for Children program is committed to keeping families together,” said Mallorie Bounds, the Safe Families program coordinator for Bethany Christian Services of Mississippi. “SB 2493 is a great way to support Mississippi children and families, and we look forward to encouraging strong, health family relationships.”
SB 2493 benefitted from strong support in both chambers. Rep. Brad Touchstone (R – Dist. 101), played a critical role in getting the bill through the House Judiciary Committee and his chamber. Additional co-sponsors who joined Sen. Parker were Sen. Angela Burks Hill (R – Dist. 40), Sen. Billy Hudson (R – Dist. 45), Sen. Michael Watson (R – Dist. 51), Sen. Chris McDaniel (R – Dist. 42), Sen. Bob M. Dearing (D – Dist. 37).