Daily Update January 11, 2016 - Message from Bobby Cagle, OUR Goal for Foster Care in Georgia

Good morning, fellow DFCS Family. Before you start reading, this email pertains to a child welfare issue. However, it is intended for all DFCS employees because we all need to know how to support one another and the families we serve, so read on asking yourself how this applies to the work you do. 

As you all know, Georgia has seen a huge increase in the number of child protective services reports since we implemented a 24 hour-per-day, 365 day-per-year call center in September, 2013. We know from national research that approximately 2/3 of all child maltreatment is never reported. My belief is the expanded opportunity to report in Georgia has allowed us to uncover previously existing, but unreported, maltreatment.

In any child welfare system, when reports increase dramatically, numbers of family preservation and foster care cases increase as a result. This maxim has certainly held true in Georgia, ultimately resulting in a rise in the number of foster children to nearly 12,000 at this time.

A number of historical factors have combined with this increase to result in a shortage of foster homes. The shortage in foster homes has resulted in increasing numbers of kids in congregate care settings. Unfortunately, it has also resulted in isolated instances of having to temporarily house youth in hotels (with accompanying, qualified adults). You should be aware that both congregate care and hotels are MUCH more expensive than family-based foster care. More importantly, you should also be aware that research indicates, for most kids, family-based foster care is better for children. Please know that I am not "anti-congregate care," because I truly believe that for some older youth temporary congregate care is the best option.  But, if we really want to do the very best thing for our foster kids, research shows placement with relatives is what we should do - WHEN IT CAN BE DONE SAFELY.

In fact, the Center for Law and Social Policy found:

"...Children in kinship foster care experience greater stability...
...Children in kinship care report more positive perceptions of their placements and have fewer behavioral problems...
...Kinship care redirects cultural traditions and may reduce racial disparities in a variety of outcomes...
...Kinship care provides stability to children and youth with incarcerated parents..."
(to read the entire article - only 3 pages - go to http://www.clasp.org/resources-and-publications/files/0347.pdf).

Given what we know, my goal (I hope you will make it OUR goal) for Georgia is that we have 50% of our foster kids in kinship care placements by January 31, 2018. To that end, we will begin to cadence this regularly in the near future at the state, regional, and county levels. I expect to see steady progress toward this goal each and every month in each and every location in our state.

This is clearly primarily related to the work of our child welfare staff. However, to be successful we need to provide financial and other supports for the relatives. So, I am asking each of you to think of how you, in your daily role, can help us achieve OUR goal. For some great information about how to do this, please visit: http://www.nrcpfc.org/is/kinship-relative-care.html

From today forward, I ask that those seeking placements first consider ALL kinship options (including fictive kin), followed by family-based foster care, and finally congregate care as a last resort. And, as we go about our work, please remember that SAFETY for children is our top priority. So, when we are thinking about placements for our kids, we must first be confident the child will be safe regardless what placement we are considering.

If you aren't convinced by the research that kinship care is the best option for kids, I just ask you to think about it from your own perspective. When you were a child, if you could not have lived with your parents, where would you have chosen to live? If you are a parent and could not care for your child, with whom would you want your child to live? For most of us, the answer will be an aunt, uncle, grandparent, cousin, or a family friend we consider to be as close to us as a family member. So, let's endeavor to do for foster children what we would want for ourselves and our own children.

As always, thank you for all you do for the families and children of Georgia.

Have a great day!

Bobby


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