You may have seen some of the recent news about moves to privatize some Department of Family & Children Services (DFCS) services in Georgia. Back in February, Senate Bill 350 was introduced which would require DFCS to contract out primary functions such as adoption, family preservation, independent living, foster care, and case management. The bill received wide support in the Senate and the House as well as the initial support of Governor Deal. See our previous blog post HERE for more information on the bill.
However, many child advocates, service providers, and other stakeholders expressed deep concerns about the bill. Many concerns lay with the rapid implementation proposed in the bill, which would have full implementation of the Privatization by July 2015. Child Advocates and community members lobbied congress and the governor to convene a group of stakeholders to study privatization in our state. Governor Deal agreed, creating the Child Welfare Reform Council to study the efficacy of DFCS and the pros and cons of privatization. Advocates also recommended conducting pilot programs to study the effects of privatization in select regions. This recommendation was also followed and pilot programs will be launched in Region 3 (Floyd, Polk, Haralson, Paulding, Bartow, Paulding, Douglas, and Cherokee Counties) and Region 5 (Jackson, Barrow, Walton, Newton, Jasper, Morgan, Greene, Oglethorpe, Madison, Elbert, Jackson, CLARKE, and OCONEE counties).
As Children First serves many of the counties in Region 5, Privatization will have a direct effect on our programs and the children and families we serve. Along with over 100 advocates, foster parents, DFCS staff, stakeholders andcommunity members, we attended a Public Meeting on the Privatization of Foster Care at Athens-Clarke County DFCS on Tuesday, May 27th to find out more about the pilot program, it's scope, and it's goals. It was so encouraging to see so many people from the community concerned about the future of abused and neglected children in our community!
- The decline in the # of DFCS supervised foster families. Region 5 (our area) has seen a 44% decline in the number of foster families. This is very apparent in Clarke County, where we currently have less than 20 foster families.
- The % of children placed outside the region. Region 5 is the 4th highest in the state, with 39% of children in foster care placed outside of the 13 county area.
- Transportation Costs. Region 5 has the 3rd highest transportation costs in the state, much of this due to the number of children placed outside the region.
The Privatization Pilot Program would only affect Foster Care Placement Services. A "Lead Agency" would be contracted to provide foster placement and ensure the health and well-being of children placed in foster care in the region. The Lead Agency would be responsible for:
- Recruiting, Training, and Retaining Foster Placements through a network of private Child Placement Agencies, Child Care Institutions, and Group Homes. (Would not include Relative Placements)
- Placing children in the most appropriate, least restricitve foster care setting.
- Ensuring the child's safe keeping during placement in foster care.
- Ensuring the child's well-being while in foster care. This includes family connections, educational needs, physical health, and social, environmental, and emotional health.
DFCS Foster Care Services would then be able to focus more on reunification services to parents and families, permanency and case planning, monitoring family progress, conducting diligent searches for relatives, and facilitating relative placements. Below is the PowerPoint Presentation that was provided at the public meeting, explaining the details of the pilot program. Please take a moment to look it over. What do you think of the proposal?
We will keep you updated at the process continues and would love to hear from you about your thoughts, concerns, and experiences. Thank you all for your support of the children and families we serve.