Marion County sees a major decrease in youth court custody cases

A celebration was held celebrating the decrease in youth custody cases after five years of hard work in the community.
Published: Oct. 15, 2021 at 5:51 PM CDT
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MARION COUNTY, Miss. (WDAM) - Taking time to care for the children of the community. That’s what Marion County celebrated today as the county saw an 80 percent decrease in youth custody cases.

It’s a feat that’s taken over five years to happen, says 10th Chancery Court District Chancellor Rhea Sheldon.

“Our goal is to give hope back to parents to make sure that they can reunify that children can be safe with those families, and that’s what we did, and it wasn’t easy,” says Sheldon.

Sheldon says Marion County was the fifth highest in the nation per capita with children in custody. That stat brought the Justice Court and Child Protective Services together to create a solution for change.

“We became trauma-informed. We recognized that anytime a child is moved out of a home whether it is their parents’ home, a family member’s home, even a foster home when you move children, you create trauma. We also informed on the fact that some neglect cases are based on issues of poverty,” Sheldon says.

Sheldon says the program helped families walking through youth court custody by helping them find jobs and even mentoring them.

Janell Lewis, who has overcome an addiction, was on the receiving end of that help.

“I was in my addiction, really not noticing the drugs were getting the best of me at the time. I was trying to fight for my kids but it wasn’t enough,” says Lewis.

Lewis says she gave up until CPS helped her get back on her feet.

“CPS came back in and just motivated me more just to do better, and I just realized it was the drugs that I had to leave alone. So, I tried it’s hard having an addiction is hard, but I tried and I got to this point where I’m at today,“ Lewis says.

Lewis says for families that are going down a similar road and want to get better.

“Have faith and don’t be scared to ask for help because help is always somewhere,” says Lewis.

Sheldon says the goal now is to continue maintaining what has been accomplished and continue to help the families in need throughout Marion County.

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