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Child Welfare and Addiction in Mississippi

A guide to how the child welfare system in Mississippi works. Know what to expect if you’re drinking or using around your kids…and what you need to do to get them back.

8
minute read

ARTICLE OVERVIEW: This article provides an overview of the child welfare system in Mississippi. It explains what happens when abuse or neglect are reported in conjunction with substance use, how those reports are processed, and what happens to the adults and children who are involved in the child welfare system.

TABLE OF CONTENTS:

Why Did They Take My Child?

The state of Mississippi considers alcohol use and substance abuse in the presence of your children as a type of child abuse. [1] Cases of child abuse are investigated by the Mississippi Department of Child Protection Services, whose number one mission is to protect children. [2] In some cases, children are separated from their parents to keep them safe. If this happens to you…you need to understand how the Mississippi system works.

If the Mississippi court rules that you are an “unfit parent” because of substance abuse or abuse or neglect towards a child, the courts will award custody to a third party such as foster care home or for adoption by another family. This decision will be based mainly on parental behavior toward the child. So, a Mississippi court presumes that a person who has been convicted of family violence in the past should not have custody of a child. [3]

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Are you ready to start fighting to get your kids back?

Why wait any longer? Reach out for help today. Addiction doesn’t mean you’re a bad person or a bad parent. But, you do need professional help and a good treatment program. Get in touch with us and learn how rehab can help. If you want to get your child back, you’re going to have to show the courts that you’ve changed. Addiction treatment is the best way to get started.

Who Has Reported Me?

Any person who has reasonable cause to suspect that a child is abused or neglected must report the case to the Mississippi Department of Child Protection Services. [4]

However, the majority of reports come from professionals known as “mandatory reporters”. These professionals are required by state law to report their suspicions. In the State of Mississippi, mandated reporters include:

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  • Attorneys
  • Child care givers
  • Dentists, interns, residents, or nurses
  • Family protection workers, or family protection specialists
  • Law enforcement officers
  • Ministers
  • Physicians
  • Psychologists, or social workers
  • Public or private school employees

When reporting, the name and address of all witnesses should be included, as well as the reporter’s if s/he is a material witness to the abuse. But, the identity of the reporter won’t be disclosed to anyone, except the law enforcement officers or prosecutors with an order from the appropriate youth court. In other words, your identity is 100% anonymous expect to courts or people in the system. Your identity will never be disclosed to the parent under investigation.

Where can you report child abuse or neglect in the State of Mississippi?

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(800)-222-8000 or (601) 432-4570

What Happens When I’m Reported

The Department of Human Services immediately notifies the law enforcement agency in whose jurisdiction the abuse occurred as the appropriate prosecutor or district attorney’s office within 48 hours of a child abuse report. Child abuse or neglect is a felony under state or federal law.

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If a report is made directly to the Mississippi Department of Child Protection Services that a child has been abused or neglected in an out-of-home setting, a referral is made immediately to the law enforcement agency in whose jurisdiction the abuse occurred. The department also notifies the district attorney’s office within 48 hours. If the out-of-home setting is a licensed facility, an additional referral will be made by MDCPS to the licensing agency and the licensing agency would investigate the report. [5]

What Happens Next?

Once a case of child abuse or neglect has been processed by the state government, a Supervisor uses information in the report to locate family. If there is enough information to determine the child is at risk, than the Supervisor will assign the case for investigation. Within 24 hours of receipt of the report, the Supervisor assesses the case as one of three Levels to determine the disposition of the report and to assign the case to a worker. [6] The three defined levels for child abuse cases in Mississippi are:

1. Level One – The report is screened out for child protective services and may receive a referral for information or a referral for services.

2. Level Two -The report is screened in and assigned to a worker who must initiate a Safety Assessment within 72 hours of assignment of the report. S/he has 7 days from initiation to complete the Safety Assessment and to send to the Supervisor for approval.

3. Level Three – The report is screened in and assigned for a full investigation. The worker has 24 hours to initiate the investigation and 30 days to complete the investigation. A Safety Assessment and any Safety Plan shall be completed within 7 days from initiation.

The first step in the investigation is when the worker contacts the reporter to get any additional information about the abuse or neglect the reporter may possess. The investigation includes interviews with the parent, guardian, caregiver, or alleged perpetrator and the alleged child victim, siblings, all household members, relatives, and other persons with knowledge of the child’s situation. [7]

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The child is also be examined for evidence of physical abuse and photographs are going to be taken to document the abuse. Medical examinations of children should occur when there are specific allegations indicating injury that can be corroborated and verified by an examination and the initial phases of the investigation reveal information indicating that a medical examination is necessary and warranted in order to determine whether or not there is evidence to substantiate any harm or maltreatment.

The parent can be given a drug or alcohol screen any time there is suspicion of illicit drug use, prescription drug abuse, or alcohol abuse.

Finally, a safety assessment is completed in all situations in which the report has been assigned a Level Two or Level Three investigation.

Child Welfare Laws

Child Welfare laws exist to protect children. In the state of Mississippi there are several laws that protect the children. Additionally, federal laws exist to ensure that the process is fair and safe. Some of the main laws that govern the administration of child protection services in Mississippi include the following.

1. The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act

This is a federal legislation that addresses child abuse and neglect. The law outlines the federal government’s research, budget, and funding priorities. Plus, the law outlines the current issues in child abuse and neglect cases across the U.S.

2. House Bill 1259 Section 97-5-39

This law outlines what happens if a child is injured by a parent. It states that any parent, guardian or other person in Mississippi who intentionally, knowingly or recklessly commits any act that contribute to the neglect or delinquency of any child will be guilty of a misdemeanor, and upon conviction shall be punished by a fine not to exceed $1,000.00, or by imprisonment not to exceed one year in jail, or by both such fine and imprisonment.

3. Condoning Child Abuse MS Code § 97-5-40

This law states that any parent, guardian, custodian, stepparent or any other person who lives in the household with a child in Mississippi, who knowingly condones an incident of felonious child abuse of that child, will be guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction thereof, will be punished by imprisonment for not more than one year or by a fine of not more than $ 1,000.00, or both.

4. MS Code § 43-21-353

This law outlines mandatory reporting and duty to inform requirement in MS. states that any other person in Mississippi who has reasonable cause to suspect that a child is a neglected child or an abused child, should report immediately by telephone or otherwise and followed as soon thereafter as possible by a report in writing to the Department of Human Services, and immediately a referral shall be made by the Department of Human Services to the intake unit and where appropriate to the youth court prosecutor.

5. MS Code § 43-21-105

This law outlines the state’s definitions of child abuse and neglect as seen by the Youth Courts in the State of Mississippi.

What are Youth Courts?

The Youth Courts in Mississippi deal with matters involving abuse and neglect of juveniles, as well as offenses committed by juveniles. In the 22 counties which have a County Court, those judges also serve as Youth Court judges. In counties which do not have a County Court, the Chancery Judge may hear Youth Court matters, or the Chancery Judge may appoint a lawyer to act in a judicial capacity as Youth Court Referee. [8]

 

What Happens to Parents

If the Mississippi court system finds that you abuse or neglect your children due to substance abuse, you will be offered support by the Prevention and Protection services. The purpose is to prevent unnecessary placement of children away from their families. The idea is that you might qualify for in-home services through a Family-Centered Practice approach. [9] So, to help you stay together as a family, The Mississippi In-Home Prevention and Protection services worker may provide:

  • Counseling
  • Educational, vocational, or family planning help
  • Housing information and assistance.
  • Medical and psychological evaluations and treatment
  • Skill building

Basically, so workers can help you address addiction. The state’s involvement is a way to create a plan that will guide you through the process of getting your life back. However, you must provide a safe environment for your children.

What Happens to Children

What happens to child whose parents are using drugs or alcohol depends on the severity of the case. As mentioned in the section above, the goal is not to place the children away from their families. The State of Mississippi provides In-Home services through a Family-Centered Practice approach that is supervised by Protective Services.

But in case where the child is in serious risk, of removal from home, the child becomes a candidate for foster care.

“A foster care candidate is a child who is at serious risk of removal from home as evidenced by the state agency either pursuing his/her removal from the home or making reasonable efforts to prevent such removal.”

What Happens if I Drink or Use?

If you continue to drink or use drugs, you risk your child custody.

You’ll lose your parental rights and in some cases, your children may be put up for adoption. In other cases, your child can be placed with a relative, a non-relative, or a licensed foster care home, temporarily or for good.

Don’t let this happen to you. Get the help you need. A good treatment program can save your life and get your kids back.

Can I Get My Child Back?

Yes.

Reunion with the children is always a prime goal in every child welfare case. Bit what you need to do is to work hard and stay sober and clean and prove the court that you’ve changed. You can be a good parent for your kids. It’s totally worth it.

Call us to day to learn how American Addiction Centers and our facility in Mississippi can help. We understand addiction. Hope is here.

Reference Sources: [1] Child Welfare: Parental Drug Use as Child Abuse
[2] Mississippi Department of Child Protection Services
[3]  The Mississippi Bar: What are the Grounds for Terminating Parental Rights?
[4] Mississippi Department of Human Services: Citation: Ann. Code § 43-21-353
[5] Children’s Advocacy Centers of Mississippi: Educator and Child Maltreatment
[6]Secretary of State: Mississippi Department of Human Services: Division of Family and Children’s Services
[7] Child Welfare: Making and Screening Reports of Child Abuse and Neglect
[8] State of Mississippi Judiciary: Youth Courts
[9] Mississippi Department of Child Protection Services: Prevention/Protection & In-Home Services Policy
Mississippi Department of Child Protection Services: Report Child Abuse or Neglect
Mississippi Department of Child Protection Services: Prevent Child Abuse or Neglect
Mississippi Department of Child Protection Services: Goal, Strategies, Action Steps, Updates
MISSISSIPPI LEGISLATURE Senate Bill 2410
Mississippi state: Mississippi Kids Count: Child Abuse & Neglect in Mississippi
About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.

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