Georgia Association of Homes and Services for Children   Foundation

Press Release from the Department of Human Resource

KENNY A. REPORT SHOWS SIGNIFICANT PROGRESS IN CHILD WELFARE SYSTEM

ATLANTA (GA) - The state-run child welfare systems in Fulton and DeKalb Counties have demonstrated significant improvement in the past year, according to a report by court-appointed monitors.  As part of a settlement reached last year between the Department of Human Resources' Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS) and plaintiffs in the Kenny A. v. Perdue lawsuit, both sides agreed to specific goals and benchmarks for measuring the quality of child welfare services in those counties.  The report, covering the period between October 27, 2005, and June 30, 2006, is the first from independent agents monitoring those results.  Of the seven measures they looked at, the State achieved or exceeded four and made significant progress on the remaining three.

"Two years ago, DFCS was in a state of crisis, and so we went to work to rebuild it into the kind of child welfare system children and their families deserve," said B.J. Walker, Commissioner of the Department of Human Resources (DHR).  "Today, children are safer and more are finding permanent homes.  This report validates both the changes that were already underway, as well as the continued improvements we've made since last fall."

Monitors found that DFCS had improved the safety of children in its care by lowering substantiated reports of maltreatment to just one-half of one-percent, or 0.54%.  That was better than the settlement's target of 1.27%, and it puts the State a year ahead of agreed-to goals.  DFCS is also providing better oversight of foster care group home

The report also highlighted the State's progress in providing permanent homes for foster children through adoption and legal guardianship.  Although the specified goal was to have 90% of eligible children adopted, DFCS exceeded that goal, finding permanent homes for 135 children - or 94% of those eligible.        

The monitors also identified areas for continued improvement, including the frequency of case worker visits for newly placed children and access to medical check-ups for children in State care.  In the case of worker visits, DFCS has been holding weekly meetings to make its workers at every level, from case managers through supervisors and County Directors, answerable for what they're doing and how they're going to improve, and caseworkers are getting better at documenting the visits they do make.  As a result, next period's report is expected to show DFCS visiting children with appropriate timeliness and frequency 90 to 100% of the time.  To improve access to medical examinations, DFCS is now doing immediate screenings of children when they come into State care and working with DHR's Division of Public Health to track their routine health care so case managers can schedule check-ups as required.

 "Although we can always do better, there was little expectation on October 28 of last year that we would make even this much progress," said DFCS Director Mary Dean Harvey.  "With the help of dedicated staff, who've had to adjust to the many changes in their work processes, and the steadfast support of Commissioner Walker, we've focused on doing the right work the right way.  As a result, we've taken giant strides - and will keep getting better."

Many of the improvements at DFCS can be attributed to its "G-Force" process in which employees from all levels get in a room together and examine statistical and other hard data to identify strengths and weaknesses in the system.  This systematic way of evaluating the state of child welfare in Georgia has driven change in Fulton and DeKalb Counties and throughout the state.

 "We said at the time that there was nothing in this settlement we didn't think was in the best interest of children and their families, and that it fit into our larger goals for improving child welfare across Georgia," said Commissioner Walker.  "The only difference is that we now have an independent third-party that's documenting our progress.  We're pleased with what we've accomplished for children and their families, and we know there's much more that needs to be done.  We're moving in the right direction."

 

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Updated by Normer Adams on 03/03/10 10:45 AM -0500                                  .