More major changes could be proposed to Georgia’s foster care system — including putting it largely in the hands of the private sector.
A group of state senators opens hearings Tuesday on whether Georgia children could be better served by the current foster care system with a mix of public and private homes or by one operated mostly by private businesses.
“I am one who believes we should always be looking for ways to improve outcomes, especially when we are talking about the lives and futures of precious little ones,” said Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, who is convening the Senate work group.
Advocates caution against any rush to overhaul the state’s foster care system, which currently serves nearly 7,000 children.
Georgia has already cut the number of children in foster care by nearly 50 percent since 2004 through a series of reform measures, said Melissa Carter, director of the Barton Child Law and Policy Center at Emory University’s School of Law. And more changes, which passed the General Assembly this year take effect in January, Carter said.
“I don’t believe this is the time for large-scale reform of the foster care system,” she said.
A story Sunday in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution found that Georgia has reduced its foster care rolls since 2004 by emphasizing “family preservation” and similar programs over removing children from homes, sometimes resulting in children’s deaths.
State Sen. Fran Millar, R-Dunwoody, who is to chair the working group, said the senators will examine whether Georgia children would be better off if the state followed Florida’s privatized foster care model.
“This is probably way overdue,” Millar said. “We need to improve the outcomes for these kids.”
He said the group could have legislation to present to lawmakers after the General Assembly convenes in January.
“Time may be a problem,” Millar said. “But this is to get the ball rolling.”
Georgia is already putting a for-profit company in charge of overseeing health care for children in foster care as part of a bigger effort to save the state’s ailing Medicaid program millions of dollars.