(This is a copy of the original story on the AJC site.)
Reprinted with the permission of the Atlanta Journal and the Atlanta Constitution.

[The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: 11.22.99]

 EDITORIALS: DFACS puts needed changes in place
Atlanta Journal-Constitution Staff

Calling for a "fresh start," Georgia Human Resources Commissioner Audrey Horne shifted leadership and staffing at the embattled Division of Family and Children Services.

The changes outlined a few days ago are encouraging, especially the reassignment of 171 workers from welfare offices to child protective services. Horne also removed Peggy Peters as DFACS director and transferred her to a new post. Under Peters' tenure, a 5-year-old Atlanta boy died, and the agency covered up its failure to act despite repeated abuse reports.

The moves will enable DFACS to work more intensively and, let's hope, more effectively with families in which the children are at greatest risk for abuse.

Little Terrell Peterson lived in one of these high-risk families. While under the state's protective watch in 1998, Terrell was beaten to death. His grandmother, aunt and aunt's boyfriend are charged in his death.

When news of Terrell's death first broke, the Fulton County arm of DFACS announced that an investigation found no violations of agency policy. Two days later, Peters learned from Fulton DFACS director Ralph Mitchell that the news release was wrong and policies had been breached.

The misrepresentations were never corrected, and the public didn't discover the policy lapses that contributed to Terrell's death until an investigation by Atlanta Constitution reporter Jane Hansen.

It's troubling that Mitchell remains head of the Fulton office after his role in misleading the public in Terrell's death. When asked about Mitchell, Horne pointed to his three decades of experience and his community support.

But Horne left the door open, saying she's still assessing the staff to determine who will remain. That's good to hear. Sometimes the best way to assure a fresh start is with fresh faces.

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