County needs more foster parents
There is much more of a need to offer foster care for children in Simpson County than many people realize.
Simpson County is a part of a seven county area that offers care to approximately 200 children at any given time. There are approximately 20 to 25 families in Simpson County who are willing to open their doors to children who may fall into this category. In September of 2017, 14 children from Simpson County were in placement from the state.
Vinessa Rockingham, who is from D’Lo but works in the office of Mississippi Department of Child Protective Services in Mendenhall, said there are primarily two different services her office needs assistance with and that is short term and long term placement of children.
The short term is for temporary placement and could be for just a weekend up to a week to offer a break for foster parents in the long term program. It could also be just to offer emergency care for situations.
The office of child protective services also offers in-home counseling. This would allow the minor children to stay in their homes while the family gets needed counseling to ensure the safety of everyone involved. Rockingham said, “We do not want to take children from homes because that is where children thrive. What we want is to give them assistance to have a safe environment.”
Prior to May 2016 child protective services fell under the umbrella of the Department of Human Services. A bill was passed by the Senate to establish a new individual agency, the Department of Child Protective Services. The newly appointed director of the agency is former Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Jess Dickinson.
The motto for the agency is Protecting Mississippi Children and Nurturing Mississippi Families. The goal is to get children out of situations of abuse, neglect or exploitation.
Foster home candidates must be over the age of 21 and can be single or married. They must pass a local and state background checks for suitability. They must be able to afford care of the children who may be placed in their custody. They do receive funds to help with cost of room and board.
Rockingham said there is an increase in the need for child placement because people are becoming more aware that the service is available. She said her organization does public awareness events to let people know they offer services to protect children.
She said that when a child enters the foster care system they will normally stay between six months and a year and a half. She said the parents, if they plan to change, will start doing so after six months then follow up is made to determine whether the parent is making true progress. She said the ultimate goal is to get the child reunited with the biological family.
She said the most difficult children to place are teenagers.
The agency needs foster parents who are willing to accept any age child without regard to race or sex. Rockingham said that as a last result children who have violent tendencies end up in shelters.
For more information about becoming a foster home, contact Vinessa Rockingham at 601-519-9668, or come by the office in Mendenhall at 109 West Pine Street.