Georgia Association of Homes and Services for Children

External Accountability
Position Statement  -  For Discussion Only
September 23, 2002

Background: The Department of Human Resources and their Division of Family and Children Services are charged with the task of protecting Georgia's vulnerable children from neglect and abuse.  The numbers of children who continue to experience abuse and neglect are well documented.  The Atlanta Journal / Constitution reported last year that over 700 children had died while in the custody of the Department.  Georgia's leadership has struggled for years to bring efficiency and effectiveness to the Department and the Division.  

Georgia's leadership has publicly stated that it wants the best standard of care for its children.  The question is, "what is a standard of best practice?" Presently, "staying out of the headlines," seems to be the standard.  In crisis times of recent years, commissions, taskforces, and study groups have made recommendations to the Governor and the Department about its practices and methods.  Few of these recommendations have been implemented.  There has been little consensus on what it needed.  The Department, itself,  struggles to find the standard of practice that is recognized as "best for children." This lack of consensus, understanding and leadership has left children in peril.

The legislature is asked each year to appropriate more and more funding to a system that they, too, clearly do not understand.  The last two Governors have made leadership changes with the hopes of making the system more accountable and effective.  A new position, called the Georgia Child Advocate, was created to provide an addition layer of protection called.  The Child Advocate's responsibility was to assure that no child fell through the safety net.  These changes were implemented with the hopes of making the system better, but instead left it even more confused and disorganized, searching for answers.  Children still are falling through the cracks and the system is getting worse. 

Solution Explored:    The Department of Human Resources is a complicated system that is charged with caring for children and families.  Few people outside the system, save a few experts understand what is needed for children.  There are no magic solutions to the question of how to protect children.  Programs and systems must be in place that address all the risk factors that threaten children.  While there are a variety of methods, there are no short cuts to quality care. 

The private sector has understood that one cannot be accountable to oneself.  The private sector has embraced licensure and accreditation as a way in which one proclaims oneself and agency fit for service provision.  Peer reviews of standards and practices assure that an agency is measured against the industry's best-practice standards. Licensure and accreditation assures that an agency is not pressured to lower its standards because of other priorities.

The Department of Human Resources has no comparable accountability.  Policies and procedures are often not supported by resources.  Caseloads are presently twice the national recommendation.  Policies can be and often are waived for convenience and self serving interests.  The number of children in a foster home can exceed limits if another foster family is not readily available. Policy and procedure violations are protected by confidentiality laws and bureaucratic inefficiencies.  Real effectiveness is neither measured nor expected.  It is the proverbial "fox guarding the hen house." 

Political will, legislative interest, and media attention should not define human services.  Children should be protected with the best care possible.  They are entitled to the best practices that Georgia can provide.  Accreditation of the Department Human Resources will assure that children will receive this care.  Accreditation will provide the external verification about whether the Department is meeting its own standards of care.  It will be independent from governmental influence, political manipulation, and the whims of public will. 

The Council on Accreditation (COA) is an international, independent, not-for-profit, child- and family-service and behavioral healthcare accrediting organization. Founded in 1977 by the Child Welfare League of America and Family Service America, COA promotes standards and champions quality services for children, youth, and families.  In 2002, COA accredited or was in the process of accrediting more than 1,400 private and public organizations that serve more that 6 million individuals and families in the United States and Canada.

Policy Recommendation: Require that the Department of Human Resources be accredited by the Council on Accreditation

 

for more information:

Normer Adams
GAHSC
404 572 6170
normer@gahsc.org

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Updated by Normer Adams on 09/26/14 09:53 AM -0400          .