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Kudos to the Division of Family and Children Services for committing resources to the education of children in foster care!

An article in today’s AJC announces DFCS’s plans to use federal stimulus dollars to hire 150 certified teachers to tutor the 3,000 Georgia foster children who are falling behind in school. According to the article foster children in Fulton and DeKalb counties fail the 3rd grade math CRCT at twice the rate and the 8th grade math CRCT at triple the rate of their non-foster care peers.

Children in foster care have experienced trauma and upheaval in their lives that make them vulnerable to many poor outcomes. It is essential that we target resources to help them succeed and this program appears to be a solid commitment to doing just that.

DFCS and the GA Dept of Education have been working together for a while now to share data and to examine ways they can partner to improve student success. Voices commends the efforts of DFCS to share the responsibility for educating these children and we encourage all state agencies and non-profits working with children and parents to do the same.

We also encourage DFCS to collect data on the effectiveness of the program and to openly share the results with the community so successes can be built upon and challenges addressed.

Beth Locker

Policy Director

Earlier this morning, Georgia Children’s Health Alliance and the Georgia Division of Public Health hosted a forum at Zoo Atlanta to release a new report, Refocus on Child Health in Georgia 2010.

For most in the room, the data which show that children in Georgia fare poorly did not come as a shock. Georgia repeatedly ranks within the bottom in terms of outcomes for kids in areas of health and other wellbeing indicators.

But the purpose of this report goes beyond merely reporting on outcomes and discussing the quality and availability (or lack thereof) of child health data in the state. As the authors of the report state in their Executive Summary, “ultimately, the report should motivate individuals and organizations to take action[.]”

Check out the report and become more informed.  Be motivated and ready to take action.

Joann Yoon, Assoc. Policy Director for Child Health

Sine Die can’t come soon enough for those of us who are weary from the longer than usual legislative session.  Yet, the General Assembly still has a full day ahead, and the 40th day can be a dangerous time as  troubling amendments can be attached to seemingly innocuous bills.

Most of my day will be spent watching out for amendments to bills that can affect kids.

The major item that the House and Senate must pass is the FY 11 conference committee report on the budget.  Based on tonight’s conference committee meeting, I expect that House and Senate leadership will congratulate each other tomorrow on the work that they did together to ensure that core state services are funded.  They will state that the budget process this year was transparent, that legislators in both chamber came together to make hard decisions in tough budget times, and they will state that the primary objective of the budget is to help strengthen Georgia’s economy.  Then, they will pass the budget.

But, tomorrow is also expected to be a day on which some of the most controversial social issues, including guns and abortion, are debated on the floor.  A conference committee is expected to meet to work to ensure that provisions on graduated sanctions are included in a juvenile justice bill.  The House could take up a bill that would base teacher salaries on student performance.  And the House and Senate must reach agreement on bills banning texting while driving.

And, throughout the day, we’ll learn who is filing to run for office and who is opting to retire as election qualifying week continues and legislators take the well to tell their colleagues that this will be their last sine die as members of the House or Senate.  Many members are retiring or leaving the legislature to run for other office.  The last number of empty seats expected was 21.

Voices will be at the Capitol all day and will share news about legislation relevent to children’s advocates.

Mindy Binderman

Director of Government Affairs and Advocacy

The Conference Committee on FY 2011 Budget held a public meeting tonight to sign the conference committee report that will be presented to the House and Senate tomorrow.  I waited all day for news of the meeting and had returned home when I received notice that the conferees would be meeting at 9 pm. 

It was worth the drive back downtown to hear a little good budget news.  So far, based on comments at the meeting and discussion with the always helpful, calm, knowledgeable and gracious budget staff afterwards, I have be able to confirm that the conferees:

  • Rejected the Senate’s proposed additional $727,000 cut to school nurses;
  • Provided $10 million for a new needs based HOPE scholarship (the Senate had proposed $52 million while the House had originally included nothing)
  • Cut by about half the Senate’s proposal to reduce DJJ funds for a regional principal, an assistant principal, and 17 certified teaching positions and replacing them with 15 GED instructors;
  • Rejected the $3.1 million in DJJ funding proposed by the Senate which would have eliminated summer school in 18 Secure Detention Facilities (RYDCs).
  • Included Peachcare Premiums in the amount proposed in the House Budget and attached budget language proposed by the Senate;
  • Fully funded Medicaid,  and
  • Included funds for programs for foster care families without a specific reference to Project Embrace.


I did not get details about Babies Born Healthy or specific items in the Department of Education budget which, according to comments from Chairman Harbin, may have been spared some cuts and hope to have more information in the morning.

We can’t forget that, in context, the FY 11 budget, as well as the FY 10 amended budget, contain deep, potentially devastating cuts to child welfare programs, education, and benefits eligibility workers.  Most of the conference committee actions for kids reduce but do not eliminate program cuts. Yet, the conferees deserve our thanks for trying to alleviate a bit of the harm that a few specific cuts may have inflicted.

The conference committee report will be delivered to the House and Senate tomorrow- just in time for Sine Die.

Mindy Binderman

Director of Government Affairs and Advocacy

The next constellation in the public policy sky may look like a baby crib.  This week two powerful organizations with strong business representation publicly underscored the need to invest in very young children.  Without it, they agree, we will not achieve higher graduation rates and work-ready young adults.  Furthermore, our businesses and government, meaning ultimately consumers and taxpayers, will pay more later.

On Monday the United Way Early Education Commission released its recommendations after 18 months of study.  Led by Dennis Lockhart, chair of the Atlanta Fed, and Dr. Beverly Tatum, president of Spelman, the Commission was clear that young children from birth to five must be a priority for Georgia, meaning that we must invest so that children are ready to learn by kindergarten and “reading to learn” by third grade.

Today, the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education emailed the third edition of Economics of Education.  Introduced by a letter from the executives of GPEE and the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, the report lays out three critical issues related to success in education and workforce development.  The first issue, Early Life Experiences, included not only the need for our Georgia PreK program but for infant and maternal health, quality child care and family supports.

Before we “race to the top” in our K-12 schools, let’s be sure we get in shape before the starting line.  Healthy and ready preschoolers will make the race a whole lot easier.

Pat Willis, Executive Director, Voices for Georgia’s Children

Voices has recently learned of a proposed rule revision for school age care programs.  While we do not have a copy of the revision, DECAL has some information about the proposed change on its web site.  Community meetings on the proposed change were scheduled to be held this week with the last one scheduled for tonight.  Details are below.

Bright from the Start’s Child Care Services Division will host three open community meetings to discuss one proposed rule revision regarding an exemption for school age programs.

If you have trouble viewing the images in this email, please view the online version here.
Sonny Perdue
10 Park Place South SE, Suite 200, Atlanta, GA 30303
(404) 656-5957
Holly A. Robinson, Ed.D.

Bright from the Start: Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning
Hosting Open Community Meetings

Community Meeting Schedule and Locations:

Bright from the Start’s Child Care Services Division will host three open community meetings to discuss one proposed rule revision regarding an exemption for school age programs.

April 13, 2010:
Gwinnett Technical College
5150 Sugarloaf Pkwy
Busbee Center for Workforce Development – Bldg 700
Room: Busbee Auditorium – first floor
Lawrenceville GA 30043-5702
5:30 – 7:00 pm
Important: There are some street closures – please enter campus using North Entrance.

April 14, 2010:
Holiday Inn Conference Center
480 Holiday Circle
Forsyth, Georgia 31029
Room: Peach
6:00 – 7:30 pm

April 15, 2010:
Georgia Southern University
Nessmith Building
847 Plant Drive
Statesboro, GA 30460
Room: Ballroom C
6:00 -7:30 pm

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Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning
10 Park Place, Suite 200, Atlanta, Georgia 30303

We’re passing on this action alert from Bobby Cagle, the Director of Legislative Affairs at DFCS:

Good morning Stakeholders and Advocates.
HB 1085 (Fostering Connections) was voted out of Senate Rules Committee yesterday. It has been scheduled for a vote by the full Senate on Monday, April 19, 2010. This is the FINAL step needed to pass this legislation.
Please take the time to either email or call every Senator and ask them to vote in favor of passing HB 1085.  I am attaching a copy of the talking points for the bill. Please remember to stress that this legislation will help ensure continued federal Title IV-E funding that goes to support Georgia’s foster care system in the amount of approximately $80 million annually.
To assist you, I have attached a listing of all Senators with their email address and telephone numbers. You will note that both the name senator’s name and their email address are hyper-linked. As well, if you would like to locate the your Senator, you can visit:
As always, I greatly appreciate all of the work you have done to help get this bill to this point. Let’s make one more push and assure passage. Please contact your Senator today!
Thanks and have a great day!
Bobby D. Cagle, MSW
Director, Legislative and External Affairs
Georgia DHS/DFCS
2 Peachtree Street, 19.394
Atlanta, GA  30303
Telephone: 404.463.3580
Blackberry: 404.326.6099
Fax: 404.657-5105                      

The House and Senate agreed to a new adjournment resolution today.  The schedule for the last 5 days of the legislative session is as follows:

Monday, April 19- Day 36 ( the Senate is scheduled to take up HB 1085, the Fostering Connections Bill)

Tuesday, April 20- Day 37

Wednesday, April 21- Day 38

Tuesday, April 27- Day 39

Thursday, April 29- Day 40 SINE DIE

After several hours of debate and a delay to allow the Senate to pass HB 1055 which raises certain user fees, contains the hospital bed tax and phases in property tax cuts and income tax cuts for seniors, the House passed the FY 11 budget today.  The budget now goes to the Senate.

In response to Georgia’s continuing fiscal crisis, the budget passed by the House contains deep cuts to K-12 education and child welfare workers, furloughs of state workers, reduction in the number of case workers and benefits workers.  Yet, Voices was pleased that the House has endorsed two Voices funding priorities.

The House’s version of the FY 11 budget contains the necessary state match for the implementation of the Planning for Healthy Babies Medicaid waiver program.  When it implements the waiver, the Department of Community Health can pull down 90 cents from the federal government for every 10 cents of state funds spent to provide women under 200 percent of the federal poverty limits with health services targeted to ensure healthy pregnancies and decrease the number of very low birth weight infants in our state. Not only does this promote better child outcomes but it is also projected to bring significant savings to Georgia.

In addition, Voices has also spoken against the Governor’s proposed cut to the lottery funded pre-k Resource Coordinator program which provides vital services to empower parents to become engaged in their child’s education.  We are happy to note that the House version of the FY 11 budget, reduces the size of the cut to Resource Coordinators by 50% while also funding 2000 new pre-k slots.

We’ve passed an important hurdle and will continue to work with members of the Senate to ensure that amendments to these items are not made in the Senate’s version of the FY 11 budget.

Mindy Binderman

Director of Government Affairs and Advocacy

Voices and JUST Georgia recently co-hosted a panel discussion with all four candidates for Attorney General. If you missed it but would like to learn more, video of the event is available here.


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April 2010