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April 3, 2006

 

Statement by Governor Haley Barbour

-Regarding child protection, adoption tax credit-

 

 

Today, I am proclaiming April as “The Month of the Child,” and I am announcing I will sign two pieces of legislation which are concrete steps taken by the Legislature to protect and serve the most vulnerable members of our society, our children. 

 

For parents who want to adopt a child into a loving home, they face a costly, bureaucratic process that makes it harder financially for them to adopt.  During my campaign for Governor I proposed an income tax credit of $5,000 as a part of “Haley’s Plan.”  House Bill 1549 establishes an income tax credit of $2,500 to help adoptive parents with the costs they incur when adopting a child into their family.  Compared with the cost to the Department of Human Services of keeping a foster child in the state system, the state will save money with this tax credit.  But more importantly, this tax credit will help create new homes for kids and build stronger families.

 

Back in 2003, Senator Alan Nunnelee brought the issue of the adoption tax credit to my attention, and since then we have worked together and with others such as the author of the House Bill, Jack Gadd, to get this proposal into law.  Senator Nunnelee’s sister, Amy Nunnelee, is here with us today.

During my State of the State, I discussed the need to reform our state’s foster care system.  I agreed with Colonel Don Taylor, the Executive Director of the Department of Human Services, that steps must be taken legislatively to improve the system which serves more than 3000 of Mississippi’s most vulnerable children and families.

 

I again thank the Chairman of the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee, Senator Alan Nunnelee, and the Chairman of the House Public Health and Welfare Committee, Representative Steve Holland, for shepherding Senate Bill 2388 to my desk. 

 

Senate Bill 2388 increases the pool of available caseworkers by creating an alternative certification process for social workers.  People of different backgrounds are qualified to be a direct care social worker for foster care, but the law has required a licensed social worker to have a college degree in social work.  This was an unnecessary impediment for many who wished to enter the field.

 

Because of legislation passed this year, approximately 70 more caseworkers will be involved in direct care in our foster system.  And Colonel Taylor is working every day to make sure that child protection specialists will be out in the field, visiting kids and foster families, instead of at a desk in headquarters. 

 

I also thank Senator Jack Gordon and Representative Johnny Stringer, the Chairmen of the Appropriations Committee, for providing needed funding for more direct care workers.  The appropriations bill for DHS also provides a pay raise ranging from $1500 to $2242 within the Division of Family and Children Services to help recruit and retain direct care workers.