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Nathan Newman on March 14, 2006 - 4:43pm
Bob Herbert rages in yesterday's column (behind the firewall) at the gross criminal negligence that is the Mississippi childrens services and foster care system -- and which is the focus of a lawsuit by the childrens advocate organization, Childrens Rights Inc.:
When it comes to providing desperately needed services for children who have been beaten, starved, sexually abused or otherwise mistreated, the state of Mississippi offers what is probably the worst-case scenario. Mississippi gets more than 25,000 allegations of abuse and neglect each year, and it can't handle them... The situation in Mississippi has become so bad, said Marcia Robinson Lowry, the executive director of Children's Rights, that the state deliberately (and unlawfully) diverts children from the child welfare system by failing to investigate reports of abuse and neglect. "Mississippi has one of the worst child welfare systems we have ever seen," Ms. Lowry said... How bad is Mississippi? In the papers compiled by Children's Rights for its lawsuit is a reference to testimony by a key official of the Department of Human Services, who said the state would "not necessarily investigate" whether sexual abuse had occurred if a "little girl" contracted a sexually transmitted disease. If you don't understand that a "little girl" with a sexually transmitted disease is a raging signal to take immediate steps to protect the child and to launch a criminal investigation, then you should not be allowed anywhere near vulnerable children.Reread those last two paragraphs. Governor Haley Barbour oversees a children services system that doesn't make it a priority to investigate whether sexual abuse has occurred when little girls contract STDs. This is the family values of the "religious" right leadership-- a lot of rhetoric about "family values" but little action or funding that actually values children. As reports submitted to the court overseeing the trial detail, it's little wonder that abuse is chronic in the system. Almost no children in the system see a case worker monthly as required by law and 8.4% had NO CONTACT at all with a case worker at any time over a full year. Given that Mississippi social workers often oversee 286 children -- as opposed to a national standard of 12 to 15 -- this gross neglect is hardly surprising. But what is most hypocritical is that these politicians leave children to rot in abusive foster care situations, but then turn around -- as Missisippi does -- and bans gay couples from adopting children out of this neglected system. The state won't put money into the system to prevent little children from being abused and even raped in foster homes, but they then have the gall to pose as protectors of children from the supposed homosexual menace. The real menace are the hypocrites like Haley Barbour and other religious conservative leaders who use children as campaign props, then leave them to rot, abused and neglected because they won't spend the money to care for them.