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Saturday August 1st, 2015 12:13PM

The state of foster children in Hall, Dawson counties

By Ken Stanford Reporter
GAINSVILLE - Child behavior is the number one reason for frequent changes in the placement of foster children in Dawson and Hall counties, according to data released at a meeting in Gainesville Friday.

Judges, child welfare workers, juvenile court attorneys, school leaders, foster parents and others met for more than four hours, looking for ways to improve how they handle cases involving abused and neglected children.

The Northeastern Judicial Circuit Justice for Children Summit was sponsored by the Supreme Court of Georgia's Committee on Justice for Children (J4C) in partnership with the state Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS).

The new information shows that child behavior was by far the main reason it's hard to find permanent homes for some at-risk children. That was followed by mental health challenges, lack of qualified placements, lack of appropriate services, placement issues, relatives coming forward late, no movement toward permanency, lack of necessary information, child not placed with siblings, and late or insufficient diligent search. The report was based on results of a survey of more than 300 state DFCS case mangers, 150 attorneys and 40 judges. They were asked: "In your opinion, what are the primary reason(s) for frequent changes in children's placements?"

Statistics that were also released Friday show that in Dawson and Hall counties:

*Between April 2011 and March 2012, officials responded to 21.2 cases of maltreatment per 10,000 children (statewide: 18.9/10,000)

*During that same period, 2.4 percent of victims reported being victimized again within six months

*The rate of unsubstantiated allegations was 5.4/10,000 (the state rate was the same)

*Between October 2011 and September 2012, 15 percent of victims were removed from homes (25 percent, statewide)

*During that same period, 18.4 percent re-entered foster care within 12 months (9.7 percent, statewide)

The report also shows that on Sept. 20, 2012, children in Dawson and Hall counties with permanent "long-term" foster care totaled six percent of foster children (four percent, statewide); in care 18+ months, 38 percent (30 percent); and, in care 24+ months, 21 percent (19 percent).

Among the ways suggested to improve placement stability: Hold review hearings to determine if a move brings a child closer to permanency and further promotes the well-being of the child. If not, start with the presumption that a placement change would not be in the child's interest.

For more information, contact: Christopher Church, Policy Analyst Principal for the Office of Children, Families and the Courts at the Administrative Office of the Courts 404-463-5227 (O) 404-561-4307 (Cell) christopher.church@gaaoc.us
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