JACKSON — Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant on Friday honored two Mississippi Department of Child Protection Services social workers for their above-and-beyond actions which saved the life of a Madison County child earlier this year.
The first-ever Governor’s Award for Outstanding Service in Child Protection and Well-Being was presented by Bryant on Friday to Tausha Rawls, a family protection specialist working in the Madison County office, and her supervisor Melody Vaughn, who is now on special assignment in Marion County.
In praising the two women for persisting in their investigation into the whereabouts of an unaccounted for 10-year-old despite the parents’ insistence that the child did not exist, Bryant credited the MDCPS workers for saving the life of the child.
“Because of you, this child is alive and well today,” the governor said. “You truly have made a difference because you did your job.”
In January 2017, a tip was called into the MDCPS child abuse prevention 1-800-222-8000 hotline expressing concern that a young child had not been seen by neighbors in a Canton apartment complex for an extended period of time. Rawls, the frontline worker assigned to the Madison County MDCPS office, immediately investigated the allegation and despite the parents’ denials eventually assisted law enforcement in discovering that the critically malnourished child had been extremely neglected and locked away in a closet. The 10-year-old child and multiple siblings were rescued and placed into state custody. According to information released by the Madison County District Attorney’s Office, the parents were arrested and charged with felony counts of child abuse and neglect.
State and local law enforcement officials described the situation as “one of the worst cases of child abuse” they’ve ever seen.
“Basically, I just caught the mother in a lie,” Rawls said. “Sometimes a report can have incorrect information but in this case I had a name, age, birth date and social security number for the child. The mother was lying. She said ‘I don’t know about a child like that.’ I knew that she was lying so we kept investigating.”
Rawls and Vaughn notified the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation and continued to pursue the inquiry until the child was discovered.
Rawls, a native of Jackson, began work with MDCPS as a Family Protection Specialist in July 2016. she is a social work graduate of Jackson State University. Vaughn, an Area Social Work Supervisor for MDCPS, previously worked in the Madison County office and is now assigned to Marion County.
“These are just two of the hundreds and hundreds of dedicated, hard-working professionals we have on our front lines at MDCPS. Every day, these men and women make a huge difference in the lives of the children and families that we serve,” said Commissioner David A. Chandler.
Also on Friday, Chandler recognized two other MDCPS employees as co-winners of the agency’s Walter F. Weathers Award for Outstanding Social Work. They are Latosha Christmas, a family protection specialist working in the Hinds County office, and Bryan Estes, a family protection specialist assigned to Tippah County.