The Georgia Cold Case Project
each. While less than half of the files contained documentation that a permanency hearing was held within one year of removal, 91% of SAAGs indicated that permanency hearings in their county typically occur within one year. All respondents indicated that they include “reasonable efforts to achieve permanency” language in their permanency hearing orders; 95% felt adequately trained on the court order language required by the CFSR.
Table 16 below summarizes key survey results.
When asked about issues Table 16. Average Response of SAAGs to Survey Questions of child representation and children in the courtroom, the SAAGs reported between 0% (7 counties) and 100% (15 counties) of children in their county have legal representation, with an average of 50%. It was also reported that between 50% and 100% of children have a GAL or CASA, with an average of 92% having one or both. The range for children attending hearings was from 0% to 100% (only two persons reported that 100% of children in their county attend hearings). According to SAAGs, 37% of children on average regularly attend court hearings. SAAG replies were very similar to those of case managers, who indicated 50% of children were represented by an attorney, and 43% attend hearings. Permanency hearing orders contain “reasonable efforts” language County abides by “One Child One Judge” philosophy Percent of children in county with GAL/CASA Permanency hearings regularly held within one year of removal Percent of children in county that have an attorney Percent of children in county that regularly attend hearings SAAG regularly invited to attend permanency roundtables 100% 95% 92% 91% 50% 37% 21%
The vast majority of SAAGs (95%) indicated that their county abides by the “One Child One Judge” philosophy. Some said only one judge serves the entire county, so for some the practice simply reflected available resources. The SAAGs overwhelmingly believed in the benefits of a policy where one judge presides over a child’s entire case. They believed the familiarity with a case allows the judge to be in tune with case details, better address the needs of the child, make better determinations on appropriate placements for the child, and better assess the progress of parents on their case plan. There were a few concerns voiced about this policy – sometimes judges become too emotionally involved and lose objectivity, difficulties in scheduling hearings when only one judge can hear a child’s case, and concerns that sometimes a complex case needs fresh eyes in order to find creative solutions.
When asked to cite the biggest challenges SAAGs face in achieving permanency for children in care the most common response (29%) was case manager turnover. Many expressed frustration due to constant turnover which led to persons handling cases that were unfamiliar with the families and case details. Turnover was also thought to be at least partially responsible for slowing down the processing of cases because new staff was slow to make decisions or request hearings. Many felt this greatly impeded case progress and the achievement of permanency. Also widely noted was the lack of funding to provide for the needs of parents, children and potential caregivers (26%). Frustrations were voiced about the lack of services which prevented parents who were trying to work their case plans from doing so effectively and in a timely manner. Funding problems prevented many children from receiving the services they need to become stable and adoptable. A lack of funding for prospective caregivers often meant that the services required