- Associated Press - Monday, January 11, 2016

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - Gov. Phil Bryant is nominating a new director for the Mississippi Department of Human Services, which faces federal court scrutiny over its handling of foster care cases.

Bryant said Monday that John Davis will become director after Rickey Berry retires Jan. 31.

Davis has been deputy director under Berry the past four years. The state Senate must confirm him in the top job.

Republican Bryant is being inaugurated for his second term as governor Tuesday. His announcement of a new Human Services director comes several days after a court-appointed monitor issued a report saying Mississippi’s child welfare system, under the department, had continued to deteriorate.

The report, by court-appointed monitor Grace Lopes, covered the year that ended June 30. It was the second in a row to find the state is backsliding in efforts to meet settlement obligations in a long-running Olivia Y federal lawsuit. The case is named after a then-young girl - one of eight children who lawyers said had been abused because of the state’s failures.



Performance declined in all but one of 13 regions, and none met even half the 19 standards.

In December, Bryant named former state Supreme Court Justice David Chandler to lead the Division of Family and Children’s Services. The governor ordered the unit of the Department of Human Services to report directly to him.

A news release from Bryant’s office said Davis has 24 years’ experience in Human Services. He lives in Brookhaven and is a former director of the Lincoln County Department of Human Services.

“It is such an honor to serve the citizens of Mississippi in this role at the Mississippi Department of Human Services,” Davis said in the release. “I also understand the tremendous responsibility and I will be fully committed to this assignment.”

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