Atlanta - Gov. Nathan Deal has created a council to study Georgia’s child welfare system and come up with ways to better protect the state’s children.
In a statement Deal said: “After meeting with numerous stakeholders including former foster youth, juvenile court judges, providers and child advocates, it was clear there was a need for a more deliberate reform process of the child welfare system.” He goes on to say: “I am confident this council will produce meaningful and thoughtful reform recommendations.”
Stephanie Blank, former wife of Falcons owner Arthur Blank, will chair the new council and work alongside the Governor’s Office and Department of Human Services.
The move comes after an effort by Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and the state Senate to privatize parts of the Division of Family and Children Services.
Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford) sponsored the bill that would allow the state to contract with private organizations to provide case management and foster care services. DFCS would still investigate cases of abuse or neglect.
“The Senate has already had hearings this past summer and fall about foster care and I think the Senate has spoken very loudly that they want changes,” she tells WSB’s Sandra Parrish.
Unterman would not comment on the motivation behind Deal’s new council or the effect it may have on the legislation. She is still hopeful that the House will vote on the measure which has already passed the Senate.
“I’m worried about every day when I pick up the newspaper and there are stories like Emani Moss who was starved to death and then put in a garbage can and then burned,” she says. “We’ve been in session for three months now and we do not have a piece of legislation that corrects what I think is a bad problem with the Department of Human Services.”
Opponents of the bill say it focuses on an aspect of the agency that is not broken and should instead work on to improve its process of investigating alleged abuse.