Gov. Phil Bryant announced Monday morning that he is appointing Chandler, effective immediately, as executive director of the Division of Family and Children’s Services. Bryant for the first time is making the DFCS director a cabinet-level position that reports directly to the governor.
Bryant, elected to a second term in November, has said reform of the state’s foster care and child welfare system is a top priority. He plans to push the Legislature next year for $37 million in additional funding to meet terms of the “Olivia Y” federal lawsuit settlement. His appointment of Chandler, who has 20 years of experience in education serving as a teacher, counselor, school psyhometrist and administrator before his legal career, appears to reinforce that commitment.
“(Chandler’s) experience and ability will be invaluable in making sure our foster care system operates safely and efficiently,” Bryant said in a statement Monday.
Olivia Y was one of eight children in foster care abused because Mississippi failed to protect children in foster care. The lawsuit was filed in federal court in 2004. A settlement was reached in 2008, but the state has since failed to comply with the terms of the settlement.
“We are going to get this done,” Bryant said recently. “We have no choice. If we don’t do it, the federal court is going to make us do it.”
Chandler, 68, was elected to an eight-year term on the state’s high court in 2008 and would have been up for re-election in November 2016. Bryant’s office has not said whether the governor would appoint someone to serve out the remainder of Chandler’s term on the nine-member court.