On February 4, 2010, Downing Clark Center’s (DCC) license to provide residential care for 72 behaviorally disturbed children was revoked by the Office of Residential Child Care (ORCC). This revocation was based on nine alleged violations of licensing rules for Child Caring Institutions that came to “light” as a result of a “riot” on January 5, 2010. Downing Clark Center appealed this revocation. On September 23, Administrative Law Judge Steven W. Teate’s ruling reversed this revocation of license and removed seven out of the nine violation citations that led to this revocation. Two low level safety risk violations of licensing were substantiated by Judge Teate. On the evening of January 5, 2010, a prank 911 call was made to the Gordon County Sheriff’s Department from the Downing Clark Center in Gordon County by one of the residents with a contraband cell phone. Staff immediately advised the arriving deputies that there was no disturbance and everything was in order. Against the staff’s requests, 27 more deputies arrived and initiated what became a full scale police riot. These male officers barged into this all girl facility against the repeated pleas of staff. After the deputies exchanged racial slurs and sexist comments with the residents, 20 behaviorally and mentally challenged girls were taken to jail on a variety of charges. Judge Teate could find no basis for the deputies entering the facility based on a prank 911 call. Video of the entire night clearly showed the facility in order and in control by the staff when the deputies arrived. The deputy’s verbal testimony did not match what the Judge saw on the video. No disturbance was seen on the video. The video showed no doors breached, no screaming in the hallways and no “total chaos” in the facility.
“Anything worth doing is worth measuring,” is the philosophy of the Fostering Court Improvement. Fostering Court Improvement is a non-profit organization that uses data to assist Dependency Courts and Child Welfare Agencies in making informed decisions, managing their operations, monitoring their performance and making systemic changes to improve outcomes for children and families. Their roots and founding are in Georgia. Georgia’s own Barton Child Law and Policy Clinic at Emory University works very closely with the Family Research Center at the University of Illinois to refine data so that it is usable and accessible to the courts and child welfare agencies. It is a terrific resource to our State and those involved in advocacy for the wellbeing of children in Georgia. They have an excellent website that has the latest information concerning many states including Georgia. Georgia’s data is very informative and complete. Data is sorted by county, region, judicial circuit and judicial district. Comparisons can be made relative to how counties are doing in comparison to each other. Did you know that in regard to counties per 10,000 residents that:
Children subject to maltreatment investigations – Lanier County was the highest (55.5) and Webster County was the lowest number of investigations (0).
Ed Koch, former New York City Mayor, was famous for asking, “How am I doing?” He would ask anyone from the man on the street to the highly paid Wall Street executive. Feedback was important to him. Feedback should be important to all of us, especially those who work in the area of child welfare. Ask anyone in Georgia, how is Georgia’s child welfare system is doing and the feedback will be a mixed bag. The feedback lately, is coming back mostly positive. It is hard to deny numbers delivered through child welfare performance based management that have survived the scrutiny of five years. The numbers are lending a voice to “Georgia is doing pretty good.” Child abuse reports are down, the number of children coming into foster care is down. Since 2008 the number of children exiting foster care has exceeded the number entering by more than a thousand. The number of children in foster care in 2005 was nearly 14,000–now that number is below 8,000. Even though the numbers of foster children nationally are down, not all states can claim reductions in the number of children in foster care. Georgia has received some national attention for the work that they have done in this regard. A Washington Post article spotlighted Georgia as one of the States that has cut foster care populations while at the same time has kept children more safe. B.J. Walker, Commissioner of DHS, said in that article that a thorough approach at the front end and supporting high-risk families without removing children was the key to making it happen. Everyone would agree that children should only be brought into care when it is unsafe to keep them at home. The holy grail of child welfare is to reduce the number of children in Georgia’s foster care system while keeping them safe at home. Georgia seems to be doing this very well. The percent of children that experienced repeat maltreatment in 2005 was 8%. While everyone acknowledges that no child should ever experience maltreatment while under the supervision of the state, the National standard for that measure is just above 5%. Georgia’s present rate is just above 2%. These are incredible accomplishments for Georgia’s child welfare system in a relatively short period of time. Family centered practices are credited with much of this improvement. Families are expected to be responsible for the care of their own children. In spite of economic strains, Georgia is providing more supports to families. When this all began, Georgia was only giving about 10,000 families support. Presently about 25,000 are receiving some type of family supports. These supports include anything from parent training to day care to crisis management to connections to food stamps. Virtually all families want to care for their children if given the supports to do so.
It is not hard to believe that Father’s Day did not become a national holiday until 1972. America has always had an ambivalence about fathers. Mother’s day is often celebrated with almost reverence, whereas Father’s Day is often the target of much satire, parody and derision. Fathers often are regarded as the “second adult” in the home and only incidental to the development of a child. Close to 30% of all children in Georgia live in households without a father. An African American child’s chances of living with a single mother household is more than 60%. With statistics like these, one can see why fathers are relegated as incidental and not essential. All this is changing. Children raised without a father’s involvement are at a serious disadvantage. A couple of credible studies confirm the negative consequences of fatherless homes. 63% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes (Source: U.S. D.H.H.S., Bureau of the Census
90% of all homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes
85% of all children that exhibit behavioral disorders come from fatherless homes (Source: Center for Disease Control)
80% of rapists motivated with displaced anger come from fatherless homes (Source: Criminal Justice & Behavior, Vol 14, p. 403-26, 1978.)
71% of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes (Source: National Principals Association Report on the State of High Schools.)
75% of all adolescent patients in chemical abuse centers come from fatherless homes (Source: Rainbows for all Gods Children.)
70% of juveniles in state-operated institutions come from fatherless homes (Source: U.S. Dept. of Justice, Special Report, Sept 1988)
85% of all youths sitting in prisons grew up in a fatherless home (Source: Fulton Co. Georgia jail populations, Texas Dept.