The Georgia Cold Case Project
summaries, participating in conference calls and meetings, and traveling to DFCS sites. The Project Lead Fellow committed to 20 hous per week. The one-year fellowships began on April 1, 2009.
On April 2, 2009 a kick-off luncheon was held to welcome all Fellows to the project and introduce staff. Fellows continued to meet weekly on Fridays either in person or by telephone for training, panel presentations, group discussions, and case deliberations. Numerous hours were devoted by Fellows for these project tasks. Free Google applications served as the cornerstone of communication and information sharing throughout the project, including Gmail, Google docs (where documents can be shared and edited by a group), and Google calendar (which allows permission to be granted for others to view calendars).
Developing & Testing File Review Forms
A series of file review forms were developed to systematically capture data on the cold cases. Numerous instruments were reviewed, including the federal CFSR data collection forms, the Georgia Court Improvement Project data collection instrument, and forms designed for the Georgia DFCS-Casey Family Program Permanency Roundtable Project. During April 2009 ARS conducted preliminary file reviews. Since the initial field testing represented the first examination of DFCS case files, there were many questions surrounding the availability and organization of data in the DFCS files. The purpose of the field test was to refine the instruments and define a file review protocol that could be implemented by the Fellows. A preliminary list of 88 long-term foster children in DFCS custody was selected for field testing of instruments.
Five test case reviews were conducted by ARS, the Project Lead Fellow, and a senior project advisor during the first week of April 2009 in Clayton and Carroll Counties. Reviews required approximately four hours each to complete. The information gained during these initial reviews was used to make extensive edits to the form. The form was reorganized, questions were edited, new questions were added, and many questions were deleted. The original draft of eleven pages with 100 questions was edited into an eight- page form with 66 questions.
The pilot forms, designed as the “Cold Case Packet,” were presented to the Fellows for review. ARS selected a sample of 21 more cases for final field testing of the packet with the Fellows. The packet contained an array of documents required for each case review, including: Cold Case Data Collection Form, Interview Protocol (instructions and questions to ask case managers in post-review interviews), Narrative Summary Instructions (instructions for writing a narrative review of the case), Cold Case Activity Sheet (timesheet), and four pages of Psychological Assessment data collection forms. The 26 pilot cases in thirteen counties were distributed by geographic location (urban/rural), age, and sex. The pilot phase efforts culminated in the final Cold Case Packet, presented in Appendix B to this report.
Institutional Review Board (IRB) Approval
Since the project involved evaluation research on human subjects (under the custody of DFCS), Department of Human Resources (DHR) Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval was required. An IRB is a committee formally