Privatization Advocate Crafts New Bill Aimed At Foster Care System

Source: Michell Eloy, WABE, January 19, 2015

One of the state’s biggest advocates of privatizing foster care has filed a new bill aimed at the state’s child welfare system. State Sen. Renee Unterman’s bill would allow a struggling parent to give temporary custody to a friend or acquaintance for up to one year. Active members of the military could do the same for more than a year. In both cases, parents could sidestep the state Division of Family and Children Services, or DFCS, which oversees the state’s foster care system. Nonprofits and faith-based groups would provide the crisis intervention and counseling to the families….

Related:
A private-sector approach to foster care gets sidelined in state report
Source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution, January 9, 2015

The last legislative session started with a renewed push to begin privatizing the foster care system and ended with a pilot program that aimed to do just that. Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle/AJC file But those efforts are now on the backburner. The pilot program sputtered before state officials pulled the plug. And a report released this morning by the Child Welfare Reform Council is largely silent on the future of the privatization of foster care programs. All that spells trouble for advocates who say a private-sector approach is badly needed.

Privatizing Foster Care Pilot in Georgia
Source: Children First, May 28, 2014

Region 5, which includes many counties served by Children First, has been selected as a Pilot Program for the Privatization of Foster Care. You may have seen some of the recent news about moves to privatize some Department of Family & Children Services (DFCS) services in Georgia. Back in February, Senate Bill 350 was introduced which would require DFCS to contract out primary functions such as adoption, family preservation, independent living, foster care, and case management. The bill received wide support in the Senate and the House as well as the initial support of Governor Deal. See our previous blog post HERE for more information on the bill.

The Privatization Pilot Program would only affect Foster Care Placement Services. A “Lead Agency” would be contracted to provide foster placement and ensure the health and well-being of children placed in foster care in the region. The Lead Agency would be responsible for:
– Recruiting, Training, and Retaining Foster Placements through a network of private Child Placement Agencies, Child Care Institutions, and Group Homes. (Would not include Relative Placements)
– Placing children in the most appropriate, least restricitve foster care setting.
– Ensuring the child’s safe keeping during placement in foster care.
– Ensuring the child’s well-being while in foster care. This includes family connections, educational needs, physical health, and social, environmental, and emotional health.

Public Meeting on Privatization Pilot
Source: Georgia Department of Human Services, PowerPoint Presentation, May 27, 2014

Child Welfare Council Reacts To Deal’s Privatization Plans
Source: NPR, April 14, 2014

Members of a Governor Nathan Deal’s child welfare panel are responding to his plan to privatize some of the child welfare system. Deal’s plan calls for a two-region privatization pilot program, with the state moving child placement and family recruitment to private groups already working with the state. Those two pilot regions have yet to be named.

House approves plan to test privatization of adoption, foster care
Source: Jaime Sarrio, ajc.com, March 18, 2014

A bill calling for a two-year pilot program to test the privatization of child welfare services passed the House on Tuesday. Senate Bill 350, which would privatize services such as foster care and adoption in certain parts of the state, did not receive the 91 votes needed to pass during the first vote. But members quickly chose to reconsider the bill, and it passed the second time around with a 104-70 vote.

Georgia House slows down efforts to privatize child welfare system
Source: Ewa Kochanska Atlanta Political Buzz Examiner March 11, 2014

The Georgia House Judiciary Committee decided Tuesday to scale down the Senate Bill 350 that would require the state Department of Human Services (DHS) to outsource some of their child welfare services through contracts with private providers. The new proposal would introduce a two-year pilot program in just a few areas in Georgia, to make sure the transition can be closely monitored and doesn’t put more children at risk
Related:
House begins debate on privatizing foster care
Source: Rebecca Lindstrom, 11alive.com, March 5, 2014

Ryan and Stephanie Martin fostered two sets of children. The last found a permanent place in their home. Fostering was always an option. But it wasn’t until the private organization FaithBridge approached their church in Alpharetta, that they decided to get involved. … They see the privatization bill as a way to free up DFCS workers to focus on child abuse investigations and permanency plans for children in the state’s care. But other private organizations told reporter Rebecca Lindstrom, FaithBridge is in the minority of those who feel Senate Bill 350 is a good idea.

SB 350: Privatizing Georgia’s Foster Care System
Source: Fact Sheet, Emory University School of Law, Barton Child Law and Policy Center, 2014

…. SB 350 does not respond to the problem:
• SB 350 does not address the urgent needs of Georgia’s child welfare system, which were highlighted by the recently tragic deaths of Emani Moss and Eric Forbes. DFCS is the sole authority for receiving and investigating child abuse and neglect reports.
• SB 350 complicates the state’s ability to ensure quality and uniformity of services for children by spreading accountability across 15 lead agencies and dozens of subcontracted providers.

SB 350 does not offer a state-specific solution:
• SB 350 does not reflect research, data, or stakeholder input about the current performance and capacity of Georgia’s child welfare system.
• Based on the most current data available, Georgia’s publicly-administered foster care system is more effective at keeping children safe than Florida’s privately-administered foster care system, on which SB 350 is modeled. Fewer children in Georgia re-experience maltreatment and fewer children re-enter foster care. …

Ga. Senate OKs bill to privatize foster care
Source: Christina A. Cassidy, Associated Press, February 18, 2014

Some state child-welfare services would be privatized under a bill passed by the Georgia Senate on Tuesday that has drawn the support of top Republican lawmakers. State senators voted 31-18 in a largely partisan vote. The bill will now head to the Georgia House for consideration.

Private sector always most efficient? No, not hardly
Source: Jay Bookman, AJC.com, January 28, 2014

Georgia officials seem intent on clearing the way to privatize some or all of the state’s foster-care system, at least in part by utilizing faith-based organizations. While I can see advantages to that approach, I can also think of reasons to be wary: …. Privatizing core government functions ought to be done with extreme caution. If you want to privatize accounting or human resource functions at DFCS, it might be a money-saver. But taking care of Georgia children whose parents cannot or will not care for them is a core government responsibility….

Editorial – Protecting children: Consider privatization
Source: Editorial, Savannah Now, January 23, 2014

The goal of privatizing public services should be to save tax dollars or to improve quality. Or preferably both. Otherwise, what’s the point? …. Gov. Deal merits applause for taking a fresh approach to a miserable system. His privatization plan — once he fleshes it out — merits a close look. …

Speed of foster care fix troubling for some
Source: Jaime Sarrio, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, January 14, 2014

A plan to put private organizations in charge of Georgia’s approximately 7,000 foster children is moving too fast for some child advocates who want more study before overhauling the system. Gov. Nathan Deal last week announced plans to turn over aspects of the state’s child-protection system to private organizations after revelations of widespread failings by the agency. A bill could be introduced this session that would call for changes as early as 2015, said sources familiar with the legislation. … The move toward privatization follows Deal’s earlier proposal to spend $27 million over the next three years to hire more than 500 DFCS caseworkers and supervisors — an increase of 26 percent. That proposal came shortly after the highly publicized deaths of two metro Atlanta children and reports in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that DFCS workers’ mistakes contributed to at least 25 deaths in 2012. …

One option to solving foster care issues: Privatization
Source: Micharl King, WXIA, January 10, 2014

Georgia state House Speaker David Ralston says he is open to privatizing the state Department of Family and Children Services. 11Alive News has learned that officials from the Department of Human Services, which runs DFCS, visited Florida recently to meet with its department. The major focus: the privatization of foster care…. Privately handled foster care. Several states do this now, including the Sunshine State. Florida outsources its foster care to 20 non-profits; each handles a specific region. …