From press & staff reports
The Winston County Republican Women welcomed a number of special guest during its May 16 meeting held at Lake Tiak O’Khata.
The special guest for the day’s meeting was Mississippi Executive Director of The Division of Family and Children’s Services David Chandler.
Chandler is a former Mississippi Supreme Court Judge. Chandler served for eight years on the Mississippi Court of Appeals and almost seven years on the Supreme Court. Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant appointed Chandler Executive Director in December 2015.
The meeting had about 35 attendees present to hear Chandler and the other guest speak.
Chandler was present to speak of the recent passing of Senate Bill No. 2493 titled “The Supporting And Strengthening Families Act.”
The bill was passed April 28, 2016 by a vote of 118-0. This legislation was designed to give families facing crises the ability to execute a power of attorney for voluntary guardianship for their children for a year while not impacting their parental rights. It provides parents a tool to be proactive before the Department of Human Services or the court systems become involved.
Children would be placed with a family member or third party. The agency involved would require a full criminal background check on any third party. Children could be reunited with the parent once the parent’s issue is resolved.
Chandler discussed the hardships of children who experience being removed from their parents’ home. Chandler told a story the governor had told him about seeing a child being removed from a home that was not suitable for them to live in, and how that child tried its best to not be taken away from their home.
“We have over 5,000 children in our custody,” Chandler said. “Every one has undergone life-altering, traumatic experiences.”
Chandler said that the state is seeing up to 80 children per day added into the system. Chandler then explained why he took the job when the governor approached him regarding the position.
“It demands our attention,” Chandler said speaking of the situation.
Upon taking the job, Chandler was overwhelmed by the gravity of the situation.
“My first thought was we as Mississippi citizens and as good Christian should all be absolutely ashamed of ourselves that the government has to take care of 5,000 of our children,” Chandler said.
Chandler asked for everyone to say something if they see something awry with a child.
Next, Chandler discussed some of the details of the Supporting and Strengthening Families Act.
Chandler is hoping the bill will allow for parents the option to have a family member or other watch over their child, not putting the burden on the state. He thanked all the members of legislation who made the bill possible.
With Winston County being his home, Chandler is looking for the loving and caring spirit of the residents to help in his cause to help the children of the state.
“I want the citizens to help us not have 80 children everyday permanently going to foster care,” Chandler said.
If you would like more information about Senate Bill 2493, you may visit www.billstatus.ls.state.ms.us/2016/pdf/history/SB/SB2493.xml.
New Parental Rights Legislation Designed by UM Law School Team
On April 18, Gov. Phil Bryant signed the Termination of Parental Rights Act, a piece of legislation proposed by the Termination of Parental Rights Study Group and designed by a team assembled by the University of Mississippi School of Law.
The Parental Rights Study Group was convened at the suggestion of Chief Justice William Waller Jr. and chaired by former Associate Justice Randy Pierce, who is director of the Mississippi Judicial College, a division of the UM School of Law tasked with educating and training Mississippi judges and court personnel.
“After the Mississippi Supreme Court’s decision in the Chism v. Bright case, it became necessary for the Legislature to modify the then-existing statutes to provide a workable framework in termination cases,” Pierce said. “I was on the court when Chism was handed down and agreed with that decision, as did a unanimous court. “However, the case magnified a need to study the TPR statutes. Chief Justice Waller asked me to chair a study group and to invite various stakeholders to participate.”
Chism v. Bright essentially reversed a judgment by the Union County Chancery Court that took away parental rights from a father, saying all the prerequisites had not been met to do so. It also upheld the idea that there should be strict standards to apply when terminating the rights of parents.
The study group members included David Calder, UM law professor and director of the school’s Child Advocacy Clinic, and MJC staff attorneys Bill Charlton and Carole Murphey. In addition to resolving the concern raised in Chism, the study group sought to clarify other aspects of TPR cases and improve the fairness and efficiency of those proceedings.
Based on the study group’s recommendations, Charlton worked closely with Calder and Murphey to draft the proposed legislation. Calder provided a practitioner’s viewpoint in shaping the procedures and definitions included in the bill. Murphey assisted in organizing the overall structure of the legislation.
“David Calder, our child advocacy clinical professor, has been a tireless advocate for children for over 20 years,” Said Deborah Bell, dean of the School of Law. “His expertise, research and advice played an important role in the passage of this important legislation.”
The passage of the legislation helps Mississippi take a step toward becoming a model child welfare state, Charlton said.
“It was a special honor serving with the distinguished members of the study group who likewise share that goal, and Justice Pierce’s leadership as chair made it happen,” he said. “All the members of the study group played a significant role in the drafting process. I’m proud that House Bill 1240 passed in both the House and Senate by clear majority votes and with bipartisan support.”
Other study group members were:
• Eugene Fair, judge of the Mississippi Court of Appeals
• Cynthia Brewer, chancery court judge
• Patricia Wise, chancery court judge
• Tom Broome, county court judge
• John Hudson, jurist in residence
• Patti Marshall, special assistant Mississippi attorney general
• Earl Scales, special assistant Mississippi attorney general
• Joyce Hill Williams, special assistant Mississippi attorney general
• Jeffrey Rimes, Taggart, Rimes & Graham PLLC
• Caryn Quilter, staff attorney at the Mississippi Senate
• Gwennetta Tatum, staff attorney at the Mississippi House of Representatives
“Playing a role in this endeavor was rewarding and meaningful,” Pierce said. “The Termination of Parental Rights Act work product required an enormous amount of time and effort.
“However, our goal in every case affecting a child is to have the best outcome possible. The new law will help provide better outcomes for children. And for that, I’m grateful to all who came together to get this done.”