Judge discusses abuse, neglect cases in Lauderdale County
MERIDIAN, Miss. (WTOK) - A local youth court judge says the number of reported child abuse and neglect cases have gone down, but experts say the numbers are deceiving.
From 2019 to 2020, neglect and abuse cases dropped from 136 to 28 in the county. Speaking to the Rotary Club Wednesday, Lauderdale County Youth Court Judge Lisa Howell explained the importance of professionals reporting abuse through observation.
“These kids were not in school for a long period of time so things went unreported,” Howell explained. “We are trying to get back with these kids, find out where they are, if they’re not in school, then why and get them enrolled. It is the school that provides stability for a lot of these kids.”
Due to COVID, several courts were backlogged. Many of them still are, but surprisingly enough, that’s not the case in youth court. They’re up-to-date.
“We used Zoom technology and we were able to have court. It’s not what I want because I like to be in the room with a child. But I also got to see their home situations. Everything is a blessing at some point,” Howell said.
Howell says the Lauderdale County Youth Justice Center is not just a place that deals with delinquent minors, it’s also a problem solving location for those going through other troubles.
“Juvenile has a bad connotation sometimes. We are here to lift kids up. If you have a need for your child, come to see us. We are here to council and provide services,” Howell explained.
Instead of complaining about the problems in the community, Howell says everyone can help by mentoring. She says it’s important that younger people have a sense of belonging and acceptance. Also, if you see something, say something. No matter how small it might be.
“We have highly trained social workers that go and investigate. If there’s nothing to it, then they’ll report that to us. Judge Graham and I look at every single report that’s made,” She said.
There’s a new campaign to collect suitcases for foster children. Judge Howell said they are looking for new or gently used suitcases. They are calling the initiative “Herollers”. Donations of medium to large rolling suitcases for local foster-care children can be dropped off at the Lauderdale County Youth Justice Center at 5400 20th St. Extension, Meridian, MS, 39307
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