By ERRIN HAINES – Associated Press
Published Saturday, January 23, 2010
Buzz up!ATLANTA – A national child advocacy group monitoring the state’s foster care system asked to meet with a state Department of Human Services administrator to discuss allegations of continued abuse and neglect.
New York-based Children’s Rights claims in a new report that Georgia has relaxed monitoring and enforcement of the private agencies it hired to provide homes for foster children and that abuse and neglect have risen among foster children in Atlanta.
Child safety always has been the agency’s priority, said Dena Smith, spokeswoman for DHR, whose Division of Family and Children Services oversees foster care in Georgia.
“We’ve done great things in the sense of keeping children safe,” Smith said Friday. “Even this report says that we’ve done better than ever.”
The state has been under a consent decree since 2005. The agreement stems from a 2002 class action lawsuit in which Children’s Rights claimed that Georgia’s child protection agencies were overburdened and mismanaged. The group alleged that children languished for months in dangerous shelters, and others lived in dirty and overcrowded conditions.
Under the terms of the decree, the state agreed to independent monitoring and periodic progress reports.
Friday’s report covers the first six months of 2009 and was issued by independent monitors appointed by the court to track DFACS’ progress under the terms of the settlement. It is the seventh report issued to date.
Related to the report’s findings, Children’s Rights also sent a letter dated Jan. 19 to Department of Human Services counsel Brenda Woodard requesting a meeting to discuss the group’s concerns.