Report Shows Significant Progress In Child Welfare
The child welfare systems in Fulton and Dekalb counties show significant improvements in the last year according to a report released today by court-appointed representatives assigned to monitor the Kenny A. Consent Decree and the Division of Family and Children Services' progress. The report, covering the period between January 1, 2007 and June 30, 2007, is the third from independent agents monitoring child welfare results for the state. The report shows that DFCS improved significantly in safety and permanency placements for children.
"While we have made great strides in improving the system, we still have a lot of work to do. However, our children are safer and we continue to find permanent homes for them. The report validates our concentrated efforts and our continued improvement," said Mary Dean Harvey, director of the Division of Family and Children Services.
For the third consecutive reporting, DFCS has improved the safety of children in its care by continuing to keep substantiated reports of maltreatment under 1 percent or 0.92 percent, which exceeds the Consent Decree's standard of 1.27 percent. Additionally, the report highlighted the state's progress in providing permanent homes for foster children through family reunification, placement with relatives, adoption, permanent legal custody or guardianship. Although the report shows a 20 percent permanency placement rate for children who have been in care for two years or less, DFCS exceeded the required 35 percent permanency rate in the second reporting with 49 percent. "We went above and beyond because it was the right thing to do and we didn't want to hold out for the next report," said Harvey. "I am confident that we will continue to improve in finding permanent homes for children in our care," she said.
DFCS also continues to see significant improvement in the number of visits made by case managers to newly-placed children in care. For Fulton County, of the 16,607 visits required for this reporting period, case managers conducted 15,314 or 92 percent. For Dekalb County, of the 9,185 visits required, case managers conducted 8,023 visits, or 87 percent.
The monitors also identified areas for continued improvement, including the frequency of lapses of the legal custody of children in care and the timeliness of reviewed and completed case plans by the Juvenile Court.
"We've been implementing a number of practices that will directly address the areas that need improvement, particular with the courts," said Harvey. "We've already started seeing much progress in these areas and will keep getting better."
The Consent Decree is a result of a class action lawsuit filed in June of 2002 on behalf of children in foster care in Fulton and Dekalb counties. As part of a settlement reached in 2005, both sides agreed to specific goals for measuring the quality of child welfare services in those counties.