Speed of foster care fix troubling for some | www.myajc.com

9
Feb

Speed of foster care fix troubling for some | www.myajc.com

A plan to put private organizations in charge of Georgia’s approximately 7,000 foster children is moving too fast for some child advocates who want more study before overhauling the system.

Gov. Nathan Deal last week announced plans to turn over aspects of the state’s child-protection system to private organizations after revelations of widespread failings by the agency. A bill could be introduced this session that would call for changes as early as 2015, said sources familiar with the legislation.

The sleeper issue wasn’t expected to gain traction during this speedy legislative session, but a looming federal deadline related to foster care funding has ignited a sense of urgency. Rick Jackson, a Georgia executive and philanthropist pushing the change, said the state will need to get a spending waiver from the federal government this year to make privatization a possibility.

“It’s kind of a now-or-never proposition,” he said. “It’s forced us to evaluate whether this is right for Georgia.”

But some advocates aren’t sure it is right for Georgia. Melissa Carter, director of the Barton Child Law and Policy Center at Emory University’s School of Law, said the waiver will give the state more flexibility on how it spends foster care dollars, but privatization isn’t the only way to make changes.

“There is not consensus from anyone who would be impacted in Georgia’s child welfare system that this is the right strategy to pursue,” she said. “The pace makes everyone anxious.”

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