The Georgia Cold Case Project
Georgia’s Child and Family Services Review Performance
The results of Georgia’s first CFSR in 2001 indicated the state was not performing in conformity with federal requirements in any of the seven outcome areas and in three of seven systematic factors. The state was required to develop a PIP to address each area of concern and given two years to implement the plan and a year to demonstrate the ability to achieve goals successfully through the plan. By 2006 the Children’s Bureau determined that Georgia failed to complete all PIP requirements successfully and a $4.3 million penalty was assessed with additional penalties each year until compliance.
Despite areas of positive performance, by Georgia’s second (2007) CFSR the state still was not in conformity with any of the seven CFSR outcomes or with three of the seven systemic factors. The review indicated a difficulty with establishing permanency in a timely manner for children with extended stays in foster care (referred to herein as “cold cases”), specifically in terms of establishing and supporting children’s connections with extended family and the timeliness of relative searches. The state was issued an $8.6 million fine which was suspended in order to develop and implement a PIP to address the areas not in conformity. The Georgia PIP received federal approval in August of 2008 and became effective September 1, 2008. Georgia has recently been notified by The Children’s Bureau that it is on target for successful completion of the plan by August 31, 2010. The Georgia PIP comprises the following major strategies:
Develop and pilot a Family-Centered Practice Model in six innovation zones.
Strengthen policy and improve practice to ensure safety of children.
Improve permanency outcomes for children and families.
Improve service array and foster parent recruitment/retention.
This study focuses on strategy #3 – improving permanency outcomes. The state has a significant challenge ahead regarding outcomes for children in the foster care system. Some juvenile courts have been overwhelmed with cases and the social service system suffers from numerous challenges, including high caseworker turnover. In reality, children often remain in foster care for years. In Georgia, the median time from removal from the home to finalized adoption among children discharged from foster care in 2009 was 32.1 months. Only 27% of those children were adopted within 24 months, compared to a national target of 37%.
The Justice for Children Cold Case Project
The mandate of the Supreme Court of Georgia Committee on Justice for Children (J4C) is to assess and improve court proceedings involving abused and neglected children. For this project, the Committee dedicated Court Improvement Project funds and worked in full partnership and support with the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS) and the Georgia Office of the Child Advocate. The goal of the project was to develop a method for improving permanency outcomes for long term foster care “cold cases.”
This project significantly expands our knowledge of children who linger in foster care for more than two years and those who and age out of care