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Atlanta's CPS Foster Care System Slips in Progress Benchmarks After Litigation Settlement

In 2002, the group Children’s Rights filed suit against Georgia officials over the Atlanta, GA foster care system. That suit was filed as a reform class action and was captioned Kenny A. v. Perdue. The parties reached a settlement agreement which was approved by the court, and may be enforced judicially, in 2005. As part of that agreement, Georgia was required to make rather far-reaching reforms to the Atlanta foster care system, and to reach specified goals or benchmarks so that progress towards those reforms could be properly measured.

Now, a six-month progress report on those benchmarks recently released shows that the state is backsliding in its attempts to meet those goals.

From the Children's Rights website:

According to the latest report from federal court monitors, the performance of the Department of Family and Children Services (DFCS) “declined on a number of issues related to the safety of children in the State’s care.”
The report, which covers the second half of 2012, is the 14th to be released by the independent monitors, who have been tracking child welfare reform in metro Atlanta since national advocacy group Children’s Rights and its co-counsel, Bondurant, Mixson, and Elmore LLP in Atlanta, won a federal court order requiring sweeping changes in DeKalb and Fulton Counties.
“The backslide on safety issues threatens to undermine a reform effort that had shown slow but steady progress over the past several years,” said Ira Lustbader, associate director of Children’s Rights. “We look forward to meeting the new leadership and working to remedy this situation. With effective collaboration, we can get kids the protections they need without involving the court.”

Some of the safety concerns noted by the court monitors included:

  • Failure to meet requirements for timely initiation/completion of neglect investigations
  • Almost 25% of CPS workers had excessive caseloads, in some cases more than twice the number of cases allowed by the court order
  • Failure to consistently procure complete case histories when investigating potential foster homes
  • Most troubling, several foster homes were found to fostering children in state custody in spite of confirmed neglect/maltreatment histories in the homes

The report also noticed some improvements:

The state turned in its “best-ever performance” in several areas related to judicial proceedings and the legal process, including timely case plan reviews completed by the juvenile court or juvenile review panel. In other areas, frontline workers completed more than 98 percent of the required visits with children, and children who had the goal of reuniting with their families met with those family members as required an impressive 95 percent of the time.