Fifty-eight Union County children are under the care of the state foster care system.
Union County has 24 licensed foster care homes, and 10 of those are only licensed to care for relatives.
There is a “tremendous need” for more licensed foster homes, said Lea Anne Brandon, spokeswoman for the Mississippi Department of Child Protection Services.
In 2018, the agency conducted 225 investigations into reports of suspected abuse, neglect or exploitation of children and youth in Union County. Not all of the investigations were substantiated. But there were some substantiated allegations of sexual abuse, physical neglect, physical abuse and emotional abuse and neglect.
Foster homes provide caring places for children who have to be removed from their homes due to safety reasons. Allowing them to stay in their same school district, near friends helps reduce the trauma of being removed their homes, according to the agency.
Children are not always removed from their homes when concerns are raised. Sometimes other services can be provided to the family so the child can stay in the home.
But if it is determined that the child cannot remain safely in the home, the agency petitions the court, and a judge decides whether the child should be removed and placed into foster care.
After the child is placed in foster care, the agency works quickly to get the child in a permanent living situation. That could include reunification with the birth parents, placing them with relatives or getting them adopted.
Foster parents are financially compensated.