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

Five remain on list for child advocate's job
Ron Martz - Staff
Thursday, July 27, 2000

The list of candidates to become Georgia's first child advocate has been whittled to five and will be submitted to Gov. Roy Barnes by the end of next week, Buddy Darden, chairman of the nominating committee, said Wednesday.

Darden said he would not release the names until one final applicant is interviewed and the committee has completed its list, which could expand to six names, for the governor.

He said the governor is expected to make the appointment within 30 days.

"All of the candidates the governor will have to choose from will be well qualified for a very important position," Darden said.

The 12-member nominating committee, made up of child welfare and legal experts, reached a consensus on the five candidates Wednesday afternoon following two days of interviews with 30 applicants. The job will pay between $65,000 and $75,000 a year.

The final 31 names were culled from 88 applications submitted to Barnes' office after the governor signed legislation authorizing the position.

The child advocate, who will report to the governor, is expected to investigate complaints on behalf of children receiving care from Division of Family and Children Services and Child Protective Services and try to find resolutions.

The advocate also could ask the governor to take action through the attorney general's office.

Although it is not necessary for the advocate to be a lawyer, the law says the person who fills that position should be familiar not only with the child welfare system but also with the legal system and law enforcement.

Darden said all the names submitted to the governor will meet those qualifications.

Among those who interviewed for the job were Mary Margaret Oliver of Decatur, the former Democratic state senator who was a leading voice in the General Assembly on child welfare reform; Sharon Trense, a Republican legislator from Atlanta who is not seeking re-election but was instrumental in passing legislation that restructured the Department of Family and Children Services earlier this year; Gwendolyn Skinner, Department of Juvenile Justice deputy commissioner for Community Corrections; and Forrest Burson, director of the Department of Human Resource's Office of Adoptions.

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