By JB Clark/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – One Lee County children’s home is committed to remaining a group home after Department of Human Services policy changes have forced others to close their doors or repurpose their facilities.
Since the 2008 court order following Olivia Y., et al v. State of Mississippi, group homes have seen far fewer children referred by the Mississippi Department of Human Services but Faith Haven has an advantage.
The ruling requires DHS to place children in the order of first, placement with relatives, then placement in a foster home in the child’s community, then foster home placement outside the child’s community and then finally group home placement.
Since it takes time to arrange placement with relatives or in foster care, the emergency shelter is able to step in an serve the children in the interim.
“The last few years the DHS has really been going into the new policies and we did experience a lower number of children but the need is still there and we are planning to stay open,” said Safe Haven Director Katherine McKee. “We have explored some other options but the need seems to be the greatest for shelter care. Right now that’s our plan – to remain open as an emergency shelter.”
McKee said the shelter served a lower number of children in fall moths but 16 children came through the home in December and 15 in January.
“They try to place (the child) immediately in foster homes without coming to the shelter and it has impacted us in that way, but sometimes they don’t have homes available,” she said. “They may call several homes during the first night but this gives them time to look at their foster families and place the child where it might be the best place for them.”
In 2012, Faith Haven housed a total of 99 children from all over the state.
The home is capable of housing up to 12 children of both sexes from the time of birth until they are 18. The children can stay in the home for up to 45 days.
Since most children who come to the home only recently came into DHS custody, the Faith Haven staff often takes them for their initial medical, dental and vision screenings.
Jerry Clayton, director of Tupelo’s Alpha House for boys, which recently announced its March closing, donated lots of furniture from the Alpha House to Faith Haven. The newly donated furniture and entertainment systems were being put to good use by Faith Haven residents this week.
McKee said the home is always accepting gifts, financial or otherwise. The shelter can be supported through the United Way of Northeast Mississippi.
She said a few things the home always needs are hygiene items and pajamas.