Reprinted with the permission of the Atlanta Journal and the Atlanta Constitution.

Coalition details child abuse cures
Group offers 32 proposals for next year's session 2000 GEORGIA LEGISLATURE
Ron Martz - Staff
Saturday • March 4

If the focus of this year's legislative session is education, a coalition of child abuse specialists and pediatricians is hoping the 2001 gathering at the state Capitol will produce a similar focus on child welfare.

At a news conference Friday the coalition unveiled a wide-ranging package of 32 proposals that members believe will reduce child abuse and help the state's troubled child protective services system deal with abuse once it has occurred. The proposals focus on beefing up prevention programs, adding specialists to deal with the toughest cases, increasing training for welfare workers and strengthening child abuse laws.

They will be sent to Gov. Roy Barnes, state legislators and the state Child Protective Services Task Force, which is drafting recommendations for changes to the state Division of Family and Children Services.

"This is an opportunity that has arisen from tragic circumstances that gives us a chance to focus some light and some intense heat on this issue," said Peter Lyons, director of the child welfare training program at Georgia State University's School of Social Work.

Lyons, who helped draft the proposals, said their public release at this time is designed to stimulate interest in them among members of the task force. The task force was appointed in December as an independent body by Department of Human Resources Commissioner Audrey Horne after a series of stories in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution detailed shortcomings in the state's child protective services system. It has until April 20 to forward its recommendations to the governor. "It's definitely in the mix," Ann Cramer, chair of the task force, said of the coalition's proposals. "We're looking at preventing child abuse and these are some positive steps to do that."

Among the agencies supporting the proposals are the Center for Child Abuse at the Morehouse School of Medicine, the Georgia Council on Child Abuse and the Georgia chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Randell Alexander, director of the medical school's child abuse center, said dozens of experts in child abuse, judges, law enforcement officials, doctors, nurses and social services agencies were consulted during the drafting of the proposals.

"We need a specialization of professionals in this field, just as we have specialists in every other branch of medicine," Alexander said.

Increasing home visitation services, which has proven effective in other states, would significantly reduce child abuse, Alexander said.

According to the coalition, Georgia spends only $2.3 million annually for these services, while Indiana spend $35 million and Florida $24 million. The coalition recommends that Georgia increase its home visitation spending to $25 million.

"We see these as being proactive recommendations. They are concrete and specific," said Sandra Wood, executive director of the Georgia Council on Child Abuse.

Some recommendations made by a coalition of pediatricians and child welfare specialists to help combat child abuse:

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