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Atlanta Significantly Improves Safety of Children in Foster Care, State Officials Must Sustain Progress

ATLANTA, GA — Atlanta’s child welfare system has shown its best performance to date since implementing widespread reforms spurred by the national advocacy group Children’s Rights, according to a new progress report — which notes that more children are safer from abuse and neglect while in foster care than ever before.

The rate of maltreatment of children in Atlanta foster care from July through December 2010 was the lowest since the monitors began tracking DFCS’s progress — a steady decline from the end of 2009, when the rate was nearly three times higher.

The (PDF), issued today by the independent monitors appointed by the court to track reforms required under the 2005 federal court order, also credits the state’s Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS) in Fulton and DeKalb Counties with ensuring children in foster care are placed closer to their home communities and have more opportunities to visit with their birth parents.

“Atlanta has made impressive progress in its treatment of abused and neglected children during 2010, and we are encouraged with the direction that DFCS has taken this reform campaign,” said Ira Lustbader, associate director of Children’s Rights. “The state has reached a critical point in this ongoing effort, and it must now work hard to not only sustain these critical improvements, but continue to address the areas still lacking.”

According to Lustbader, DFCS must work harder to improve its ability to complete child abuse investigations in a timely manner and ensure children’s service needs are appropriately addressed before they leave foster care. Additionally, the state needs to do a better job ensuring that children move quickly to permanency once they enter foster care — especially when the goal for the child is adoption or a permanent guardianship.

The report notes several highlights illustrating the important progress DFCS has made:

Despite the many improvements noted in today’s report, the monitors also cited several critical areas DFCS must work harder to improve:

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 foster care system and to achieve specific benchmarks for progress. Today’s six-month progress report is the tenth issued since the Kenny A. case was settled.

The full text of today’s report and all previous monitoring reports, as well as the initial complaint and recent contempt motion that Children’s Rights filed against the state of Georgia, can be found at www.childrensrights.org/georgia.