Atlanta Takes Major Steps to Address Foster Care Safety Issues, but Struggles with Growing Caseloads

(New York, NY) — Today federal court monitors released a (PDF) tracking metropolitan Atlanta’s progress in reforming the child welfare system of DeKalb and Fulton Counties, an effort spurred by national advocacy group Children’s Rights known as the Kenny A. lawsuit. In response to the report, covering the first half of 2012, Ira Lustbader, associate director of Children’s Rights, issued this statement:

“The Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS) has sustained vital improvements to ensure kids are adopted quickly and help siblings stay connected in foster care, but we continue to be concerned about the safety of Atlanta’s kids. The agency must take immediate steps to rectify rising caseloads, especially for the child protective services workers who investigate reports of child abuse.

DFCS is now following up on all reports of suspected child abuse and neglect of kids in foster care, and has rescreened every one of its foster homes given that some hadn’t been checked for abuse. For Atlanta’s kids to truly be safe, the agency must complete investigations on time, and fill their shortage of well trained child protective services workers. DFCS also needs more foster home options to meet the needs of kids coming into the foster care system, and must improve health and dental services for children.

As the state faces these challenges, the federal court has approved a strong replacement for one of the two court-appointed monitors to help oversee reforms and report on the state’s performance. Dr. Karen Baynes-Dunning, a former juvenile court judge in Georgia with broad expertise in government and children’s issues, will replace Sarah Morrison, who is resigning at the end of 2012. Dr. Baynes-Dunning is highly qualified and respected nationally, and we know she will bring all of her skills to bear in monitoring the required improvements for abused and neglected kids under the Kenny A. lawsuit. ”

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 the Georgia Class Action Page.