glp,PT: harden is “en” not “in”

glp,PT: harden is “en” not “in”

Eileen Bailey

First lady Pat Fordice speaks to a group of people gathered at the Harden House Adoption Program open house Thursday at the McLean Center in Tupelo.

For additional information about the Harden House Adoption Program, contact Patricia Digby at (601) 844-8989 or (601) 862-3515.

By Eileen Bailey

Daily Journal

Finding permanent homes for children in the foster care system is the goal of a new adoption agency that celebrated its open house Thursday in Tupelo.

The Harden House Adoption Program is a special needs program offered by the Southern Christian Services for Children and Youth Inc. in Jackson. This program combines the efforts by the Harden House Therapeutic Girls’ Home program, Department of Human Services and the Mississippi Families for Kids Initiative, which is supported by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

The Harden House Adoption Program finds permanent placement through adoptions for children, mainly adolescent boys and girls who have been in the foster care system for more than one year and whose parents have terminated parental rights, said Patricia Digby, director for Harden House and the Harden House Adoption Program.

Many of the children in the program are children who have special needs, whether physical or emotional, she said.

During the first year of the program, Digby hopes to place seven children. To date, three have been placed. After the first year, the program hopes to place 15 children from across the state. These children are already in the care of the Department of Human Services.

Paul Vander Velde, program associate for the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, said the foundation has pledged $42 million over the next five years to the 12 states involved, including Mississippi. The mission of the programs funded by the Kellogg Foundation is to take children out of foster care and place them in permanent homes.

In Mississippi, there are 3,306 children waiting for a permanent home. Of that number, about 189 are in Lee County and about 34 in Itawamba County, said Pam McCaffrey, communications director with the Mississippi Families for Kids Initiative. The average stay of these children in the foster care system is about 5.8 years.

The guest speaker at Thursday’s open house was first lady Pat Fordice. “The governor and I commend Southern Christian Services for Children and Youth on your mission to serve vulnerable children, enabling them to become self-sufficient and contributing members of society,” Fordice said. “We applaud your belief that every child has an inherent right to the security and stability of a permanent home.

“A child is our bridge to tomorrow, our hope, our strength, and can represent the best in us and all that we wanted ourselves to be,” she said. “This outstanding community effort is a beautiful example for our citizens of all that can be accomplished when we unite forces, join hands and reinforce our determination to work together for the benefit of Mississippi’s children.”

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