Earlier today, DHS Commissioner Clyde Reese presented the proposed 2012 DHS Budget to the House Appropriations Human Services Subcommittee. After the budget conversation concluded, Representative Penny Houston, who chairs the Subcommittee, asked Commissioner Reese to comment on the recent deaths of children in Georgia which had occurred within the last few weeks. Rep. Houston stated that as she understood the facts, a DFCS referral had been made in some of those cases.

As part of his response, Commissioner Reese said that he wanted to “take a very hard look” at the practice of diversion. In cases of diversion, a decision is made to implement a short-term community-based DFCS response to an allegation of child maltreatment that’s not found to present evidence sufficient to cause concern. In such situations, the Department does not conduct any further assessment or intervention.  According to the Commissioner, one concern is that once a case is diverted, there’s no further follow up on the part of the Department. He said that while the Department is to be commended for decreasing the number of Georgia’s children who are committed to the care of the state and also for making an effort to keep families together, he questioned whether “the pendulum has swung too far the other way”. More specifically, he posed the question about the proper role of diversion in situations were child maltreatment is alleged.

It was a very honest conversation between two state leaders on an issue critical to the wellbeing and safety of children in our state. As the Commissioner and the Department look into this issue further, we’ll be watching to see what, if any, changes in practice and/or policy result.

Joann Yoon, Assoc. Policy Director for Child Health

Voices for Georgia’s Children

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