ATLANTA (WAOK)– Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal has released his final report of recommendations from the Child Welfare Reform Council, which was formed to improve the state’s Division of Family and Children Services. In the recommendations, the focus is on challenges that face the child welfare system. They are: permanency, safety and well-being. They promote strengthening relationships between DFCS and law enforcement, and establishing advisory boards to streamline communication and improve service delivery to families served by DFCS.
Many of the recommendations address safety for the state’s social workers. The governor emphasized his hopes to conduct joint training sessions with caseworkers and local and state law enforcement, and explore the option of providing social workers with panic buttons while they’re in the field.
Deal said the recommendations include opportunities for training, mentorship and increased pay for DFCS employees, with the goal of increasing retention. Another focus for Deal is his hope to decrease the number of DFCS cases to 15 per social worker; right now, the average is about 22 cases. An internal audit found that the caseload was significantly higher in several counties. In some instances, more than 100 cases were assigned per worker.
“We cannot expect outstanding results without an outstanding workforce,” the governor said.
Reducing caseloads will require hiring more people and finding ways to keep them. In the past, high caseloads and relatively low pay has led to high turnover for the agency.
The welfare reform council also advised increasing state agencies’ ability to share data and custodial records, which would provide social workers with complete and up-to-date information on the children they serve.
The governor’s office will now evaluate the recommendations and pursue them through legislative, budgetary and executive action.
“I am confident that these recommendations will appropriately develop, motivate and support our child welfare professionals — the very same professionals entrusted with our state’s most vulnerable citizens,” Deal said.
The Child Welfare Reform Council is made up of child advocates, educators, healthcare providers, government officials, juvenile court judges, law enforcement members and foster families, among others. Members formed the recommendations over the course of six meetings in the past year.
Deal created the committee after the deaths of several Georgia children.