/CPS requests additional $26 million to comply with Olivia Y settlement

CPS requests additional $26 million to comply with Olivia Y settlement

Jess Dickinson, Commissioner of Child Protection Services, asked the House Appropriations Committee Thursday to increase his agency’s budget by almost 24 percent from $110 million-$136 million for fiscal 2020. Dickinson stated that Child Protection Services wouldn’t have enough caseworkers to properly monitor the children within the system without the additional money. After Thursday’s meeting, Dickinson stated that it was 100% funding. “It’s completely the ability to hire enough casesworkers (that keeps our compliance). It’s frightening.” Dickinson stated that the agency requires $7 million to hire additional employees. However, the Legislative Budget Office has recommended that CPS funding be maintained at the same level as fiscal year 2019. John Read, R. Gautier, Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee said Thursday that they would do everything possible to assist. CPS caseworkers only 56 percent met the December caseload requirements. This meant that they had more cases than what the court decided they could monitor. CPS agreed to a 90 percent limit in 2016. Dickinson stated that “strictly speaking, we are substantially outof compliance.” Dickinson stated that CPS had asked the court for a review of the caseload requirements. He also said that the number of caseworkers is the most important element in keeping Mississippi’s vulnerable children safe. “If I don’t have enough caseworkers, the result is that I might have a child who’s being abused/neglected, and I don’t have someone to send there quickly enough to save that child. Dickinson stated that this is a serious problem for us. Dickinson also requests $15 million in state funds for the update of the CPS computer database. An additional $3 million is needed to stabilize the existing program. Dickinson described the 25-year-old program as “a black screen with an blinking green cursor” and said it is “dangerously close to crashing.” The rollout will take two years, cost $60 million and will be funded half by federal matching funds. The terms of the Olivia Y settlement require that the agency complete the upgrade before July 2021, or else it will be in violation of the settlement. Dickinson stated that if the system fails, we won’t be able to find our children except through the memories and minds of our caseworkers. CPS would request an additional $7.5 million to comply with the federal Families First Act, which will take effect in two years. It emphasizes the importance of keeping children at home. Failure to comply could result in the agency losing substantial federal matching funds. These funds make up $100 million of CPS’s $210,000,000 budget. Correction: An earlier version incorrectly stated the requested amount of state funding. It is $26 million, not $52 millions.