designated to approve, monitor, and review biomedical and behavioral research involving humans with the aim to protect the rights and welfare of the research subjects. The DHR IRB requires all researchers to clearly articulate the anticipated benefits and the importance of the knowledge to be gained through research, as well as an approved plan for the protection of subject privacy.
ARS prepared and submitted an IRB application package, complete with all file review and consent forms, to DHR and was granted approval to conduct the project. The final program protocol was required to include strict safeguards for the protection of the identity of the foster children under review and a signed consent form for each child. Permission for foster children participation in the study was required by a legal guardian, in this case DFCS. In order to proceed with a file review, the Fellow presented a consent form to the DFCS case manager or supervisor and requested permission to review files. If permission was granted, a signed copy of the consent form was left with the local DFCS representation for the case file; a second copy was forwarded to ARS by the Fellow to remain in a locked file. All remaining project documentation – file review forms, narratives, notes, discussions, data files – relied on a unique identifying number assigned to each child. To maintain the confidential identity of all cold case foster children, names and personal identifiers were strictly prohibited from all project documentation.
The Cold Case Program Protocol
Fellows received official training by ARS on completing Cold Case Packets on May 1, 2009. They were divided into teams of two to conduct site visits and review files. Each team had a SAAG or former SAAG who would be experienced with the content and organization of DFCS case files. The Project Lead Fellow made initial contact with the DFCS directors in the pilot counties to introduce the project. ARS called or emailed the directors to schedule site visits and notified Fellows of scheduled reviews. All pilot case reviews were completed within six weeks. ARS attended random pilot case reviews to note any data collection problems, and to observe case manager interviews to ensure uniformity and fidelity to the program protocol.
The final cold case program protocol was articulated at the end of the pilot phase. The final 13 steps that summarize the protocol are presented in Table 3. By October all Fellows were working alone. By February 2010 a total of 214 files had been reviewed in 46 counties. Fellows completed Cold Case Packets and submitted them to ARS for review and data entry. Each case was then deliberated by all Fellows via a teleconference or in-person meeting. Next, follow-up calls were scheduled with each county DFCS office to discuss the review findings and present any case recommendations. A final summary for each case was posted on the Google Group site for DFCS review.
Table 3. Georgia Cold Case Project Protocol
Select Cases For Review. Cases were selected for review from automated AFCARS data and were
identified only by AFCARS identification numbers. Selection was based upon seven cold case criteria (federal funding eligibility, months in care, parental rights termination, age of caretaker, institutional placement, age of child, number of placements). The Office of the Child Advocate matched the AFCARS IDs to names of the children and provided names to ARS. ARS queried the Georgia Court Process Reporting System 2 (CPRS2), using name and