Hancock County has Mississippi’s highest percentage of children in state custody.
The agency charged with the protection of those children, the Mississippi Department of Human Services, has recently faced criminal investigations, civil rights lawsuits and inquiries by a state legislative committee.
In a six-part multimedia series, the Sun Herald presents the stories of several families who say their children have been taken away based on unsubstantiated claims or errors made by the department.
Over the past 18 months, the Sun Herald has conducted exclusive interviews and filed public-records requests with several law enforcement agencies, uncovering audio recordings, court filings and thousands of pages of documents.
That evidence reveals a common theme that has led to a scandalized state department — a system of fostering secrets.