Atlanta Improves Adoption Rates for Foster Kids, But Still Falls Short in Key Areas, Latest Report Shows

(Atlanta) — The metropolitan Atlanta foster care system continues to make headway in the treatment of children in its care, according to a progress report released today. Most notably, the Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS) in DeKalb and Fulton Counties showed its best performance yet when it comes to finalizing adoptions in a timely manner.

Today’s report covers the last six months of 2011. It is the twelfth report to be released by independent court monitors since national advocacy group Children’s Rights won a federal court order that requires sweeping reforms to foster care in metropolitan Atlanta. According to the report, 84 percent of children who were freed for adoption during the latter half of 2010 were adopted within 12 months. This is the first time the state has met or surpassed the performance standard’s threshold of 80 percent.

The report also notes that DFCS is maintaining strong oversight of its foster homes, with 98 percent of homes fully meeting approval standards, and less than one percent of children in overcrowded homes.
The frequency in which case managers visit with children continued to meet standards; workers are expected to visit children in foster care twice a month and visit foster parents monthly. During the monitoring period, case managers completed over 97 percent of the required twice-monthly face-to-face meetings with kids, and 97 percent of the monthly visits with caregivers.

“The kids deserve to see these kinds of improvements in the foster care system,” said Ira Lustbader, Associate Director of Children’s Rights. “However, DFCS still falls short in several important areas that directly affect the safety and well-being of Atlanta’s foster children.”

For example, the report shows that DFCS failed to complete nearly one in five investigations of suspected abuse involving foster children within the required 30-day timeframe. DFCS also continues to fail to recruit enough new foster homes to make up for foster homes that close. The report further notes that beyond simply increasing the number of homes, DFCS must recruit “the right kinds of homes” to meet the needs of kids coming into care, including adolescents and larger sibling groups.

“Recruiting and supporting an adequate array of foster homes is critical to improving the lives of kids in state custody,” said Lustbader.

Children’s Rights, along with the Atlanta law firm Bondurant, Mixson, and Elmore LLP, filed the reform class action known as Kenny A. v. Perdue against the state of Georgia in 2002 on behalf of all children in foster care in Atlanta. In 2005, Children’s Rights and its Atlanta co-counsel reached a court-enforceable settlement agreement with state officials requiring Georgia to make sweeping reforms to the Atlanta-area foster care systems and to achieve specific benchmarks for progress. Today’s six-month progress report is the latest issued since the Kenny A. case was settled.

The full text of today’s report and a complete collection of materials related to the Kenny A. reform class action that Children’s Rights filed against the state of Georgia can be found at www.childrensrights.org/reform-campaigns/legal-cases/georgia/.