Georgia’s First Lady is expanding her service role to children in the state. Sandra Deal, wife of Gov. Nathan Deal, has agreed to lead the advisory board for the Governor’s Office for Children and Families (GOCF). “It’s important for us to concentrate on our children and our families for the sake of our state,” Mrs. Deal said during the news conference led by the governor, along with House Speaker David Ralston and Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle. It was also announced that Katie Joe Ballard has been tapped to take on the role of GOCF’s Executive Director. “I’m excited; I have some big shoes to fill,” said Ballard after the event today in the North Wing of the state capitol.
The Juvenile Justice Information Exchange has obtained an email that says the Georgia Governor’s Office for Children and Families (GOCF) Executive Director Jennifer Bennecke will resign August 15. The email to GOCF’s advisory board members, says Bennecke will not return following maternity leave. According to advisory board member Judge Steven Teske, Bennecke is resigning for personal reasons. JJIE also received a letter to GOCF from the Georgia Office of Audits and Accounts saying it will perform a “special examination” of GOCF’s “performance and expenditures, including Children’s Trust Fund revenues, that may be considered in connection with potential mergers with other organizations.” Former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue created GOCF in 2008 by joining together the Children’s Trust Fund Commission and the Children and Youth Coordinating Council into one organization.
Buried in the Governor’s budget is a plan that is stirring up conflict among children’s advocates in Georgia, pitting supporters of two child welfare agencies against each other. The plan would fold the Georgia Family Connection Partnership, a 20-year old statewide public-private collaboration, and its budget of nearly $8 Million into the Governor’s Office for Children and Families (GOCF) effective July 1, 2011. Currently the Partnership is attached to the Department of Human Services. Officials of the GOCF say the change would save the state money and simplify access to information and services. Opponents of the move counter that it would undermine the Partnership’s commitment to community-based decision-making, jeopardize its private funding, and increase the size of state government.