November 13, 2013 16:26 Age: 161 days

Child Deaths Focus Attention on Georgia’s Foster Care Policy

Following reports that 55 children died in in the first quarter of 2013 who had been known to Georgia Division of Family and Children’s Services caseworkers, Barton Child Law and Policy Center Executive Director Melissa Carter was quoted in a series of articles by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that examine whether the Department’s emphasis on reducing the number of children in foster care endangers children.

“By last year, two-thirds of the Georgia children who died after DFCS investigations came from families that had been diverted into programs designed to stem the flow to foster care,” the AJC reported Nov. 10.

"In 2012 alone, the Journal-Constitution found, workers from the agency did not detect or did not act on signs that foretold the deaths of at least 25 children," according to a Nov. 7 story.

Ten-year-old Emani Moss’ burned body was found in a trashcan on Nov. 2 and her stepmother and father, Tiffany and Eman Moss, were charged with murder for allegedly starving her to death. Emani ran away from home twice in July 2012 and told a police officer her stepmother put her under a cold shower, tied to a chair with belts. But according to the officer’s report, she showed no signs of physical abuse. At the time of Emani’s death, Tiffany Moss was serving a five-year probationary sentence for beating her stepdaughter in 2010.

"The fact that a little girl would run away from home two times in the same month should've been warning enough that something wasn't right," Carter told the AJC.

Eric Forbes died Oct. 11, allegedly at the hands of his father, Shayaa Yusef Forbes, who is charged with beating his son to death. In 2012, the 12-year-old’s teachers had reported suspected abuse on three occasions including once when Eric’s face was “badly beaten.” A caseworker visited his home in August 2012, the AJC reported, and interviewed several family members and also, the boy’s pediatrician. DFACS determined Eric was not at risk and closed its investigation.

On Nov. 11, Georgia Pundit wrote about the state’s plan to consider privatizing foster care for roughly 7,000 children within the current DFACS-supervised system.

Georgia has been pursuing a strategy of safely reducing the number of children in foster care for the past several years and reform continues, Carter says, with the passage of the revised Juvenile Code, which will take effect Jan. 1, 2014.

“Foster care has been in a state of reform and will continue to be,” Carter added. “I don’t believe this is the time for large-scale reform.”

Related links

“Georgia Senators to Study Privatizing Foster Care”

“In Drive to Reduce Foster Rolls, Troubled Girl ‘Had Nowhere to Go’”

“Recent deaths again bring scrutiny to Georgia’s child welfare system”

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