Andrea Sanders, credited with cleaning up the Mississippi Department of Human Services in the wake of a scandal earlier this year, is Republican Gov. Tate Reeves’ choice to head the state’s Department of Child Protection Services.
In making the announcement earlier this week that Sanders would be the new child welfare commissioner, Reeves noted in a statement that for her entire career Sanders, a former social worker, “has been on the frontlines of the effort to protect Mississippi’s most vulnerable.”
“There is no one who could be better equipped for the job,” said Reeves, a first-term governor, in a statement announcing the hire.
Sanders is moving over from Health and Human Services, where she was a deputy executive director and the general counsel. In the latter role, she managed the legal aspects of responding internally to a scandal that led to the arrests of the former executive director, John Davis, and five others who were accused of misusing millions of federal dollars earmarked for helping the poor.
She faces plenty of challenges as commissioner of the Department of Child Protection Services as well. Mississippi is in the midst of implementing a consent decree stemming from a lawsuit filed against it in 2004. To date, according to litigant A Better Childhood, the state has so far met only 32 of 113 commitments.
The number of youth in Mississippi foster care skyrocketed from about 3,500 in 2010 to 5,486 in 2016, but it has since declined to 4,237 as of March.
In her own statement Monday, according to the Associated Press, Sanders said she is honored and excited to take on her new role, but there is more work to be done to provide “a secure environment and loving home to Mississippi’s children.”
“I know that we have many kids out there who are relying on us to get it right,” Sanders said. “I believe that we can make a difference if we always remember the God-given potential of every child in our state. All must be protected and uplifted.”