for a caregiver to take custody of a child could not be provided, resulting in the child remaining in DFCS care.
One in five SAAGs cited “parents only partially working their case plan” as a problem that clogged the system and prevented permanency. These respondents believed that DFCS and judges should require parents to be more aggressive in meeting the requirements of their case plans because half-hearted attempts mean that children linger in care. Seventeen percent cited a lack of communication with DFCS as a major problem. SAAGs did not receive updates on case plans, hearing requests, and case updates which prevented them from effectively moving the case through the courts in a timely fashion. Other challenges included: DFCS not making appropriate permanency plans for children, court scheduling conflicts, the slow process to place children out of state, and challenges in finding permanency for children with severe physical/emotional disabilities.
Like case managers, SAAGs listed the biggest problems system-wide to achieving permanency for children (see Table 17). The number one answer was the lack of funding to address the needs of parents and children (36%), particularly funding for mental health services. Case manager turnover surfaced again, with 29% expressing concerns that the constant turnover of case managers leads to a DFCS workforce that lacks experience, knowledge of the system, knowledge of individual cases, and a slowing of decision- making and case processing. The next system-wide challenge was a lack of quality placements for children with special needs and for teens (19%). Other system-wide issues included: inter-generational DFCS involvement which makes families unable/unfit to take custody of children, federal guidelines/ requirements that stymie creative solutions for permanency, the reluctance of judges and DFCS to TPR which delays cases, and large DFCS caseloads which prevent case managers from giving ample attention to each case.
Table 17. SAAG Survey: What do You See as the Biggest Challenges System-Wide to Achieving Permanency for Children in Georgia’s Foster Care System?
Lack of funding to address the needs of parents and children Case manager turnover (workforce lacking experience slows case processing) Lack of quality placement for children with special needs and teens
36% 29% 19%
Anonymous online surveys with Special Assistant Attorneys General (SAAGs) and DFCS case managers provided qualitative detail on issues where file review data was sparse. The 177 completed surveys offer a unique opportunity to incorporate recommendations from the field into Georgia’s efforts to improve the child welfare system that handles cold cases.