Family Feud Part 2

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The Georgia House of Representatives has nixed the absorption of the Family Connection Partnership and its funding into the Governor’s Office of Children and Families (GOCF), an agency created in 2008 by then-Governor Sonny Perdue. The Senate has not yet voted on the appropriations.

Officials of the GOFC had said folding the Partnership into their agency would save the state money and simplify access to information and services. Opponents of the move countered that consolidating the entities could undermine the Partnership’s commitment to community-based decision-making, jeopardize its private funding, and increase the size of state government.

The House even included notes emphasizing its decision to quash the proposed transfer of the Partnership, a 20-year-old statewide public-private collaboration with an $8 million budget. “It is the intent of the General Assembly that Family Connection Partnership remains an independent non-profit and shall not be merged into the Governor’s Office for Children and Families,” one note says. “It is the intent of the General Assembly that these funds be administered solely by Family Connection Partnership and shall not be administratively transferred by memorandum of understanding to any other state agency,” says another.

“The House demonstrated its support of the 20 years of collaborative work that we are accomplishing in every county in Georgia to improve the lives of children and families,” said Taifa Butler, the Partnership’s director of policy and communications, via email. “We are thankful for the General Assembly’s continued support and for the outpouring of support that we have received across the state from our local and state-level partners. We look forward to continued conversations with the House and the Governor’s Office on how we can maximize support and funding for the local collaborative work.”

The House appropriations bill also funded the Georgia Commission on Family Violence, leaving it under the judicial branch.

Last fall discussion arose about moving the commission, a 37-member panel made up of representatives of law enforcement, courts and advocacy groups from each of the state’s congressional districts, to the GOCF. The move was rejected by the state legislature in the past and opposed by many commission members. Perdue replaced a majority of those members in the closing months of his administration.

Two years ago, Perdue attempted to do away with the commission. Then, in last year’s legislative session, his office proposed cutting its budget and transferring the rest to the Office for Children and Families. The 2010 legislature rejected both proposals, instead placing the commission under the Administrative Office of the Courts, where this year’s House left it.

“We’re being treated as a very valuable asset by the legislative and executive branches and the judiciary,” said Douglas County Juvenile Court Judge Peggy Walker, who chairs the commission.

Perdue formed the Governor’s Office of Children and Families in 2008 to fund and coordinate the state’s efforts in prevention, intervention and treatment services for children, including programs dealing with juvenile crime and drug abuse. The office also maintains statistics on juvenile arrests, detention and probation.

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