Where’s this Money? … “”Funding for Legal representation provided for Rankin, Adams, Harrison, Forrest Counties”….

“Mississippi is one of only two states that do not provide free representation to …. ???  {article & url below}.  I personally would like to know where all this “funding” went, or is going?!, ie. where’s the money?, as referenced in the headline …. “Funding for Legal representation provided for Rankin, Adams, Harrison, Forrest Counties” …. I certainly don’t know, and I personally have not found in any of my research anyone who has received assistance for this program, and for the purposes outlined.  My children and I were denied, twice, for assistance to receive any representation by Mission First, several times by Mississippi Legal Services, and, the Mississippi Bar Association has kept re-routing me back to steps A and B .. the black hole of despair and the never-ending cycle meant to make you dizzy or chase your tail until you cry “uncle” and quit or die trying!

Over the past two years I’ve inquired, applied with Southern Poverty, ACLU, …. no funding available for me or my children, whether for reasons of race, gender, nationality, jurisdiction, location, etc. I was not allowed not know, ALL AGENCIES I’ve spoken with, even Children’s Rights, regrettably informed me that my children and I fall into category of  “high conflict divorce” which eliminates many families.  This is quite frustrating, unfair, and unjust as, in many cases, certainly in mine, my divorce was finalized years ago (mine, March 2006) …. how can that be labeled “high conflict?.  These agencies shy away from any cases in which domestic violence or child abuse is inferred, alluded, and, as in our case, very easily documented.  I suppose they have good reasons for this … but I would certainly like to know what they are.  I exhausted my savings, over $45,000, by last count, in the first six years, defending myself and my children, and I was successful …. until my savings was depleted.  Coincedentally, I was unable to protect my children when my money was gone, spent, fed into the system.

 

 

Article re: funding for Mississippi, legal representation below:

February 25, 2013:  Youth Courts in Adams, Forrest, Harrison and Rankin counties are participating in a pilot program which provides free legal representation for low-income parents in Youth Court hearings in which allegations of abuse or neglect could result in court-ordered removal of children from parents’ custody. 

Rankin County Youth Court Judge Thomas Broome said …., Harrison County Youth Court Judge Margaret Alfonso said, “The hope is that parent representation will result in better outcomes for children and families. It will provide parents with a better understanding of the procedures and what is necessary to be reunited with their children.”   

Providing a legal advocate for the parent will curb unnecessary removal of children from parents, Judge Alfonso said. “Ultimately the goal is to prevent removal if possible. If appropriate services can be provided to prevent removal, we are obligated to attempt to provide services that prevent or eliminate the need to separate the child and the family.” 

Mississippi is one of only two states that do not provide free representation to low income parents in Youth Court proceedings which may result in loss of custody of children.

Adams County Youth Court Judge John Hudson said, “The fact that government can come in and take a person’s children away and that person has to walk into a courtroom where everyone else is represented by attorneys and that person does not have an attorney — I can’t think of anything worse than that.  “But if they had committed a misdemeanor (that could result in jail time), they could get a (court appointed) lawyer,” Judge Hudson said.  Providing attorney representation for low income people provides fairness, Judge Hudson said. Judges dealing with unrepresented litigants are put in the untenable position of trying to assure fairness without crossing the line into advocacy, he said. While judges can explain the proceedings, they can’t advise and help the unrepresented party.

Forrest County Youth Court Judge Michael McPhail said that before the pilot program began, the Department of Human Services, the prosecutor and the court administrator might explain proceedings before a hearing, then he would explain the person’s rights and the process from the bench. “These people were hearing everything about their case and their rights from somebody who does not represent them,” Judge McPhail said. “They may lose because they didn’t know what to do.”

Having an attorney representing parents also creates another level of accountability, Judge Hudson said. When the court sets conditions for reunification, parents may procrastinate to meet those conditions. An attorney will push the client to comply with the court’s orders.  Having an attorney available to represent the parents will speed up the process so that proceedings don’t drag on. “It’s going to speed the process tremendously,” said Judge Hudson.  Quicker resolution of cases will save public dollars, Judge Hudson said. “It will save money by getting them out of the foster care system quicker.”

Part of the funding for the pilot program comes from a $100,000 grant from Seattle based Casey Family Programs, the nation’s largest private foundation focused on foster care and improving the child welfare system. The foundation works to reduce the need for foster care by helping the child welfare system to prevent family crises that lead to separation and foster care.

H. Lien Bragg, Casey Family Programs Senior Director of Strategic Consulting, said, “Casey Family Programs is pleased to support Mississippi’s efforts to establish parent representation for families involved in the child welfare system. We believe timely, adequate and competent legal representation is a critical driver in expediting permanency and well-being outcomes for children involved in dependency court proceedings.”

 Harrison County, which has the largest number of cases, received $50,000 in Casey Family Programs grant funding for a full-time attorney. Adams and Forrest counties each received $25,000 in grants to pay for attorney representation. The Administrative Office of Courts provided $45,000 through a Court Improvement Program grant to fund the Rankin County program.

The arrangements differ among the four pilot counties. A full-time attorney on the staff of the Mississippi Center for Legal Services will begin representing low income Harrison County parents on March 1. Parents in Rankin County since October 2012 have had access to an attorney who works for Mission First Legal Aid Office. Mission First Legal Aid is a partnership between Mississippi College School of Law and Mission First, a neighborhood outreach ministry. Forrest County uses two part-time contract attorneys who started representing clients in October 2012. Adams County in December began appointing a local attorney who takes cases in a part-time contractual arrangement.

Judge Broome said that he does not order parents to contact Mission First Legal Aid Office, but makes them aware of the availability of legal representation there.  Mission First Legal Aid has opened 16 cases for parent representation since last October, said Director Patti Gandy. Mission First attorney Carlyn Hicks, who handles

Rankin County parental representation, is there “to be that voice for that parent who may be so distraught that they may not be able to coherently tell the court their side of the story and what’s really going on,” Gandy said.

“What we are trying to do is shorten the period of time, if that child has to be taken from that home, and to determine if it is really necessary for that child to be taken from the home. Sometimes it’s not necessary for the child to be removed from the home,” Gandy said. “Studies have shown if you can get an attorney involved for parents at the beginning of the proceeding, it shortens the time the child is away from home or separated from parents.  It’s all about making sure the child does not stay in the system any longer than is necessary,” 

 

Found on link:  https://mail-attachment.googleusercontent.com/attachment/u/1/?ui=2&ik=4bb2674b6d&view=att&th=140c588a5768064f&attid=0.1&disp=inline&realattid=1444626868951857644-1&safe=1&zw&saduie=AG9B_P8HWWUfo58erssemNaUU0Rp&sadet=1377707912573&sads=lSl4GznVy71-BY_MjrQtv9um-2E

 

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