Legislature Approves Parker’s ‘Foster Care Alternative”
Act provides family/community alternative to help children, family
Last week, a bi-partisan House and Senate approved the “Supporting and Strengthening Families Act” authored by Senator David Parker (R-Olive Branch) which would provide a family or community based alternative to Mississippi’s foster care system. The measure is headed to Governor Phil Bryant for his consideration.
“Our first priority is the safety and welfare of children. But the Mississippi foster care system is overcrowded and has failed many children and families. This provides a mechanism to keep children safe, reduce government interference in family lives, and reduce the number of cases flooding the foster care system so it can better address the needs of children in the most severe circumstances,” Parker said.
“Supporting and Strengthening Families Act” (SB2493) would allow a parent or guardian to designate someone else as “attorney-in-fact” with power regarding the care and custody of a child for a short period. The designee could care for the child without many of the current foster care hurdles. A parent would have the ability to revoke the power of attorney at any time. There would be no foster care compensation to the designee and the child would not be considered to be in foster care. Sponsor organizations to aid the designee would include churches and other charitable organizations.
“We are all aware of problems that have been reported regarding foster care and DHS in Mississippi. This measure will not solve all of these issues but it is a step in the right direction. The bill allows a parent to transfer power of attorney to another person for a period of one year to allow the parent to get their life on track without fear of prosecution or state intervention claiming abandonment or neglect. My hope is we will see more Church and community organizations getting help to parents in need,” Parker said.
He continued, “Some parents face health or dependency issues which prevent them from meeting the needs of their children. But they have family or friends who love those children, can provide a stable and healthy environment for them and would welcome the opportunity to care for them while the parent or parents treat their challenges. Many studies show people would be willing to help out a friend in their time of need but are unwilling to go through the government process of being ‘foster parents.’ Likewise, there are tragic examples of foster parents participating for the wrong reasons. This reform is about people helping people and providing a parent with a solution that does not jeopardize their right to maintain custody of their child. Government doesn’t need to intrude, can’t afford to intrude, and would do greater damage by intruding in the lives of some children who have a network to care for them. This measure would enhance the family unit with no cost to the state and actually could relieve the state of unnecessary expenses and casework within DHS so the state can spend more time and resources on those who need the foster care system.”
Parker says this legislation will increase the success rate of children in challenging situations, and also provide an important option to single parents in the military, “Many times a parent in crisis will hold on too long before getting help for their problems such as addiction. During this time, the state may act to take their child from the home and once away, the child has a much lower chance of success both short term and long term. This provides another option that protects the child and works to keep the family intact. Also, this bill will help our military single mothers or fathers who might be deployed to have an option for care during their service.”
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