Positive Permanency Practices
Despite the obstacles, many positive DFCS case management practices were documented by Fellows. The most common positive practice noted (13% of cases) were extensive efforts made by individual case managers to maintain familial contact for a child. This practice took many forms including tireless efforts to contact relatives and foster visitation, and providing transportation to ensure sibling and parental visits. In a few instances, case managers had followed up with the parents of children about to age out of care (parents whose rights were terminated). Upon determining parent stability, case managers attempted to foster contact and visits between the parent and child so that relationships could be forged and support systems established as the children prepared to exit DFCS care.
In 10% of the cases reviewed, Fellows documented great efforts by DFCS to provide assistance to families (pre-removal, upon reunification/adoption, and to non-parental caretakers). Assistance included mental health services, parenting aides, transportation, and anger management classes. In one case, a DFCS case manager helped an adult sibling obtain a larger apartment so that she could take custody of a minor sibling. In another case, a potential adoptive parent was provided assistance to get a van that could accommodate the handicapped child she wished to adopt.
In 10% of cases it was noted that case managers were exceptionally resourceful, creative, and took initiative to work difficult cases. Examples included finding back-up placements should initial placements fail and conducting very detailed Accurint searches to locate all possible family members. DFCS case managers have the ability to run Accurint searches which provide instant electronic access to an array of public records information and link analysis technology. Accurint is a powerful tool that helps case managers locate people, visualize complex relationships, and uncover assets. Two resourceful case managers even used Facebook to locate runaway youths and siblings.
Another innovative practice relies on adoption counselors or case managers to reduce resistance to adoption among teens. Case managers often cited “teens not wanting to be adopted” as one of the primary reasons for not selecting adoption as a permanency goal. After lives of chaos and disappointments it is not surprising that so many teens were leery of adoption. Mathew, a 14-year-old honor student, had a case plan goal of emancipation because he refused to be adopted. The Cold Case Project Director solicited Sue Badeau, a nationally recognized Child Welfare Professional, to engage in conversation with the youth about permanency. Ms. Badeau trains others on how to conduct such conversations with youth in a way that emphasizes building a relationship, listening skills, and asking questions and providing ideas instead of answers. When Ms. Badeau began her conversation with Mathew he reiterated his strong feelings against adoption. Over the course of their time together he agreed that he would be open to considering adoption if the right family was found. A few months later Mathew was placed in a pre-adoptive home and today achieving permanency looks very promising.
Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) reports located in the files painted a positive picture of the CASA network working for Georgia’s children.