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The Georgia Cold Case Project

March 2010). As described earlier (Table 6), 76% of the cold cases reviewed are still in DFCS care. For the 196 children with a psychological assessment rating, it appears that children with positive outcomes of adoption and guardianship have lower assessment ratings than children that still remain in care (see Table 11). As follow-up analysis is conducted on this study group as they discharge from care, it will be possible to test empirically the relationship between complex mental health issues and permanency outcomes.

The Parents and Families Table 11. Psychological Assessment Ratings by Case Outcomes (as of March 2010) One in three children came from a single female-headed home. Nine percent of mothers and 10% of fathers were deceased. At the time of review, 44% of mothers and 42% of fathers had their parental rights terminated by the state and 7% of mothers and 5% of fathers had voluntarily surrendered their rights. For 15% of cold cases, reunification with parents was the permanency goal. Number of Children Average Rating 10.6 9.9 9.3 8.8 8.7 7.8 10.2 Still in DFCS care Reunification Emancipation Adoption Reside with relative Guardianship Total 150 9 16 4 11 6 196 The majority of children had siblings (70%). One in three was part of a sibling group that could be placed together, but only 25 kids in our sample were in a placement with at least one sibling. Some children were originally placed with siblings but circumstances such as the adoption of one child or the severe mental health needs of a sibling necessitated them being placed separately. Often the reasons siblings were not placed together were not clear from the files. Thirty-one children had a sibling in care but they were not permitted to be placed together for reasons that included sexual abuse between siblings and emotional trauma caused by sibling contact.


Of the 1,872 placements for this group, the most frequent was a foster home. The average child was placed in three foster homes; 25% of the children were placed in five or more foster homes. Added to the lack of stability in living arrangements was an average of five case managers per child. One in three children (36%) had six case managers or more; two children had 18 case managers each.

Research shows that children with more placements and longer stays in foster care are more likely to experience an adoption disruption6. Efforts to explore adoption or guardianship had already occurred for nearly two out of three children (62%) by the time of case review. Over one-third of the children (37%) had a pre-adoptive placement at some point, although adoption efforts were often problematic. Adoption disruptions and adoption dissolutions were a large problem among the sample. A disruption refers to an adoption which is never finalized and the child is returned to foster care. A dissolution refers to an adoption which fails after finalization and also results in the child being returned to foster care.

One out of four cold case children (27%) had at least one adoption disruption; 18% had at least one adoption dissolution during their time in


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