November 21, 2008
ATLANTA (GA) – A report issued Wednesday by court monitors tracking child welfare outcomes in Fulton and DeKalb counties concludes that “significant” improvements were made in 2008 and the Georgia Department of Human Resources (DHR) Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS) is on the “right course” in improving its services.
DHR was commended for “widespread improvements” in several crucial areas of child welfare, including maltreatment in care, lower caseloads, the quality of child protective investigations in substitute care settings, more frequent visitation, improved compliance with foster home licensing and approval, and worker continuity.
“We’re pleased by this report not simply because it validates years of hard work in DeKalb and Fulton counties, but because it points to a trend of systemic improvements within DFCS that will lead to better outcomes for children all over Georgia,” said B.J. Walker, commissioner of DHR. “We still face challenges, especially in these tough economic times, but as the monitors have reported, we’re moving in the right direction.”
The report, which is the fifth in a series of reports issued every six months by independent federal court monitors of DFCS services in Fulton and DeKalb counties, cites “several trends and positive accomplishments” from January 1, 2008, to June 30, 2008, that serve as “building blocks for future success.”
Among them, the report found DFCS is doing a better job of investigating child maltreatment in foster care – not only in DeKalb and Fulton counties, but in other metro Atlanta counties. Also, DFCS has “greatly improved” reporting foster care maltreatment to statewide offices – from only 33 percent of cases being reported at the end of 2007 to 98 percent of cases being reported in the first half of 2008. Improved case reporting to DHR statewide offices is seen as an important trend in developing effective strategies to prevent child maltreatment in foster care. The rate of child maltreatment in foster care itself improved for the first time – from 1.01 percent in the last half of 2007 to 0.90 percent in the first half of 2008.
The report also found that Fulton and DeKalb county DFCS case managers have significantly fewer cases. In the last half of 2007, 29 percent of county case managers had more than 20 cases each. But only 4 percent had that many cases in the first half of 2008. Another positive trend is that more children are placed in stable situations (92 percent) close to their original homes (98 percent) and with no more than two case managers providing services (90 percent). In addition, visitation has steadily improved with more children seeing their parents, siblings and case managers.
DFCS also continues to be successful in either reuniting children with their families or placing them with new, permanent families within a year of entering foster care. Since 2005, nearly half (49%) of all children entering foster care have been successfully placed within 12 months. However, placing children who have been in foster care longer than 12 months continues to be an “ambitious” challenge for DFCS, the report stated. To improve these outcomes, DHR has taken several steps, including tapping funding and expertise from the private sector to target these children, and implementing a Program Improvement Plan (PIP) that emphasizes placing children in permanent, secure and safe homes.
For media information, contact:
Dena J. Smith