Report: DeKalb County Improving Legal Representation of Foster Children in Juvenile Courts

ATLANTA, GA — An independent monitoring report released today shows that DeKalb County has made significant progress in lowering caseloads for lawyers representing foster children in the Juvenile Courts, and in improving the quality of legal representation children receive.

The reforms were undertaken to comply with the 2006 settlement of part of the federal class action known as Kenny A., brought by the national advocacy group Children’s Rights, which charged DeKalb County with failing to provide adequate legal representation to the approximately 1,000 abused and neglected children in the custody of its child welfare system. The settlement followed a landmark ruling by the federal court that children in foster care have the legal right to effective and zealous legal representation throughout their experience with the Juvenile Court.

“The progress DeKalb County has achieved will help protect children in foster care,” said Ira Lustbader, associate director of Children’s Rights. “All of these children need lawyers to fight for them, especially in a system that has been plagued for so long with the kind of widespread problems that Georgia’s Department of Family and Children’s Services is still struggling to fix.”

The monitoring report, which is also required by the settlement and covers the period from March 14 to September 14, 2007, found that DeKalb County has:

Amid the significant progress, however, the report highlights some areas that still need improvement. The report notes that Georgia’s Department of Family and Children’s Services (DFCS), which is responsible for every child in state custody, often impedes attorneys’ ability to gather basic information about their child clients.

Additionally, DeKalb County child advocates must strengthen their efforts to ensure that there is an up-to-date court order for each child in foster care granting legal custody to the child welfare agency, the report says, and must improve advocacy efforts on behalf of undocumented children from other countries in foster care and around the educational needs of their clients.

The full report and the federal class action settlement with DeKalb County are available at

Chris Iseli or Brooks Halliday // 212.683.2210