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

Overseer of Fulton DFACS is named
Watchdog will review all cases handled by troubled county agency.
Richard Whitt - Staff
Wednesday • February 16

Following through on promises to give the troubled Fulton County Department of Family and Children Services special attention, the state is appointing a full-time overseer to the office.

Beverly Jones, the administrator of intake and family services for the Child and Family Services Agency in Washington, will begin work March 27.

State officials focused on Fulton DFACS because of increasing criticism in recent months of how it handled some cases that resulted in the deaths of children, including a 5-year-old Atlanta boy.

Jones' first task will be to lead a team that will review every record in the county office. She also will work with the county office director in providing more oversight and direction, said Juanita Blount-Clark, director of the state DFACS.

"The issues are significant enough that we need to put someone in there to work with them," Blount-Clark said in announcing the appointment.

Blount-Clark said she expects the review of records to take about a month. After that, the review team will recommend changes that may need to be made in the office, she said.

The reviewers also will look for inconsistences between policy and practice in dealing with families.

"We want to make sure that for every child we've made a safety plan for, that we're really protecting that child," she said.

Five-year-old Terrell Peterson died after a long period of physical abuse and torture, allegedly at the hands of family members. A lawsuit has been filed charging the state with contributing to Terrell's death through its negligence and covering up the death. Terrell's grandmother, aunt and the aunt's boyfriend have been charged with his murder.

Details of the case emerged in December in an Atlanta-Journal Constitution investigative series. Since then, the state agency has moved on several fronts to shore up county offices across the state. Jones' appointment is the latest in a series of moves.

Citing Terrell's death, Gov. Roy Barnes last week called for approval of legislation creating an Office of Child Advocate to serve as a watchdog over DFACS. Barnes said repeated reports to DFACS that Terrell and his siblings were being abused and neglected "were not properly handled."

The Legislature also has begun moving legislation to provide Georgia's abused and neglected children with more protection. One bill, known as the Terrell Peterson Act, would give doctors the authority to take temporary protective custody of children they suspect have been abused or neglected. The bill would give doctors 24 hours to evaluate and treat youngsters they take into their custody before notifying the Juvenile Court.

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