It’s been a long journey, but the Mississippi Department of Child Protective Services is reuniting dozens of families in Gulfport.
Today, the department hosted its first local celebration of reunification.
“I’m really excited. It’s good to come home from work and be with my kids again.” Meet Erica Phelps. She’s excited now, but just a few years ago, she had to get her life back on track after Child Protective Services took custody of her kids.
“I signed myself up for the drug court program through the Youth Ccourt. I had been on drugs for, like, two years. I lost my kid. That was last October that I signed up for that program and I just kind of stuck with it and I’ve been clean ever since.”
Phelps says it was a tough road, but she is thankful the program allowed her to focus on herself while still spending time with her kids. “It was difficult, but the program actually incorporated putting my kids back in my life. It was designed to do that and it worked well.”
Judge Mike Dickinson became Harrison County Youth Court Judge at the beginning of the year. As of January 1st, in Harrison County there were 792 kids in child protective custody. By August 1st, the number dropped to 566. “When I started, one of the things I told my staff is that yes we are a court of law but you know we are in a very unique position to minister to these families. I view this as a ministry. They come through our doors and are broken and hurting and in need of advice and in need of being put on the right track and we happen to be able to, at a crucial point in time, we are able to do those things.”
Friday’s reunification celebration was to honor 65 families becoming whole again. “I think it’s a really good thing to celebrate it. Come together and be able to look back on it.”
Phelps says her advice to anyone working to get their life back on track is: “I would just advise them to stick with it and to do it for their kids.”