Metro Atlanta’s Foster Care System Makes Strides in Several Areas

‘While the Improvements are Noteworthy, DFCS Must Strive to Overcome Persistent Problems That Impact Kids,’ Says Children’s Rights

(New York, NY) — Today federal court monitors released a report tracking the Department of Family and Child Services’ progress as it reforms child welfare in metro Atlanta (DeKalb and Fulton Counties), an effort spurred by national advocacy group Children’s Rights. In response to the report, covering the first half of 2013, Ira Lustbader, associate director of Children’s Rights, issued the following statement:

“The Atlanta foster care system showed strong performance in several critical areas. For the first time, DFCS met the requirement for minimizing the shuffling of foster youth from one home or facility to another–a practice that is widely regarded as traumatic and harmful. The agency also ensured that almost all children had monthly visits with their caseworkers.

“While the improvements are noteworthy, DFCS must strive to overcome persistent problems that impact kids. Metro Atlanta is getting a mixed report card at best, meeting only 14 of 30 required performance targets to improve foster care. Some remaining problems have a clear and potentially devastating impact on children. These include instances of screening out maltreatment reports that should be investigated, and failing to interview all alleged victims and others connected to such reports. There is also high turnover among case managers, and child abuse investigator caseloads that exceed court-ordered limits. Also, too many foster kids are not getting required health care services.

“This, as well as the push to privatize aspects of child welfare, leaves state officials with serious challenges to address. Privatization is not a magic pill. With strict oversight, there is the potential for private agencies to improve areas of child welfare. But if state oversight is lax, children stand to suffer. We look forward to discussing the state’s progress and challenges in making all of the court-ordered improvements a reality for foster kids in Atlanta.”