Foster Care Alternative Awaiting Governor’s Signature

JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) –

Mississippi is working to improve the foster care system. Meanwhile, the legislature passed a community-based alternative to the system. It’s not intended to fix all the problems but rather alleviate some of the load.

Some say foster care is not always the answer.

“The fact that you know that this parent is taking steps for the betterment of their life and their children,” said Andy Ray. “And all we are is a safe family to just sit there for a while they get help or do whatever they have to do, that really makes it easier.”

Jennifer and Andy Ray have hosted one child. His mom didn’t have anywhere else to turn.

“Initially she needed to go to treatment,” explained Jennifer Ray. “And so she did that. So, we had him from basically just before Thanksgiving to Christmas Eve last year.”

The Ray’s volunteered through Safe Families for Children. It’s already operating under the same system that the “Supporting and Strengthening Families Act” would promote. The parent can temporarily transfer power of attorney to community members willing to help.

“We’re hoping that this is the foster care prevention,” noted Mallorie Bonds, Safe Families for Children Coordinator. “For families are in need, maybe they haven’t reached the point where their children have been abused or neglected, can reach out and say, I can see where this is headed.”

There are several differences between this model and traditional foster care. One is that it’s always the choice of the parent to enter into these alternative arrangements.

“Parents are able to maintain custody throughout this process,” explained Bonds. “And at any time they can say this is not for me. I just want my children back under my roof.”

Host families within this type of community based model are not paid for providing care.

Safe Families for Children is only in Hinds, Madison and Rankin counties currently. This bill would encourage DHS and other agencies to utilize this model as an alternative to foster care.

Senate Bill 2493 was passed by the legislature this session and has been sent to the Governor for final approval.

Source: MS News Now