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The Georgia Cold Case Project

Chapter 3: Cold Cases In Georgia

The primary purpose of the cold case project was to develop and evaluate a method for improving permanency outcomes for children in foster care for long periods of time. File reviews conducted by Fellows allowed for a deeper understanding of the challenges to achieving permanency presented by cold cases. In addition, Fellows examined each case for the legal requirements placed on Georgia by law and the federal Child and Family Services Review. If all legal requirements were not met, or permanency options were not explored, case-specific recommendations were presented to DFCS for consideration. The analysis of collected data provides for a deeper understanding of cold cases and assesses Georgia’s Program Improvement Plan efforts in the foster care permanency arena.

Cold Case Project Sample

The final Cold Case Project sample consisted of 447 children. While the original sample described in Chapter 2 contained 500 children, 53 were dropped from the study because they were already adopted by the time file reviews began or their files could not be located for review. The final sample of 447 was fairly even in representation by gender and race (56% males/44% females; 55% non-white/45% white). The age of removal from the home varied from birth to age 17, with an average of age seven. Nearly four in five (79%) had some type of identified disability. When the sample was created, the children had been in DFCS care ranging from less than one year to 16 years. The average child in the sample was 13 years old and had been in care for six years. One half of the children resided in an institution, one third were in a non-relative foster home.

As described in Chapter 2, half of the sample was randomly assigned for review (the intervention group). The program plan included a target of 220 cases for review. Between April 2009 and March 2010, 214 cases reviews were completed (48% of the total Cold Case study sample), leaving 52% or 233 cases to serve as the comparison group. Counties ranged between zero and 63 cold cases each and were selected for case reviews on the basis of their volume of cold cases and their location in the state. The goal was to represent all corners of the state, including urban, suburban and rural populations. Reviewed cases were geographically distributed across 46 Georgia counties and included each of the 17 DFCS regions, as illustrated in Figure 1 on the next page. Table 4. Comparison of Cold Case Project Intervention and Comparison Groups (As Measured by AFCARS Data) Intervention Control Group (n=214) Group (n=233) Male* Nonwhite Average age Average years in DFCS care Institutional placement* Parental rights terminated Has identified disability 61% 56% 15 yrs. 6.5 yrs. 71% 49% 52% 56% 13 yrs. 6.7 yrs. 33% 46% Within each selected county, cases were listed in random order and the first half of the county list was selected for review (unless a county had two or less cases, in which case all were reviewed). Table 4 demonstrates the similarities between the intervention and comparison group cases. While the randomization plan created 80% 78%

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