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For detailed information on these bills, use the Legislation Tracker tool on our website.

HB 185:  Service providers sheltering with runaway youth to report contact with children within 72 Hours.  Status:  Passed House and Senate.

HB 200:  Seeks to to discourage trafficking of persons for labor or sexual servitude and provide greater protections to persons subject to such crime.  Status:  Passed the House and Senate.

HB 265:  Creates two special bodies (the 2011 Special Council on Criminal Justice Reform for Georgians and the Special Joint Committee on Georgia Criminal Justice Reform) to study and reform Georgia’s criminal justice system.  Status:  Signed into law by the Governor.

HB 373:  A child adjudicated as a designated felon can not be discharged from DJJ or released from restrictive custody prior to the time provided in the court’s order.  Also provides that only the child or the child’s attorney can file a motion for early release or modification of a court order.  Status:  Passed House and Senate.

HB 471:  Changes to provisions related to the secure detention of children prior to a ruling in their case.  Status:  Remains in the House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee.

SB 31:  Allowing Parents of Minors Accused of Crimes to be Clients of Attorney Representing the Minor.  Status:  Passed the Senate.  Recommended Do Pass by House Judiciary Committee.  Withdrawn in the House and recommitted.

SB 105:  Children who commit designated felony acts to be granted parole.  Status:  Rests in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

SB 127:  Significantly revised and updates Georgia’s 40 year old Juvenile Code.   Status:  Currently in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

HB 641:  House Version of SB 127 (above).  This bill was introduced a few days before the end of the Session and will be refined over the interim.  Status:  Has been assigned to the House Judiciary Committee.

HB 162:  Registered sexual offenders prohibited from photographing minor without parent’s consent.  Status:  Passed House and Senate.

SB 112:  Amending provisions related to rights of military parents during deployment.  Status:  Passed Senate and House.

SB 172:  Home study recommending adoption to be completed before child adopted by third party.  Amended to include HB 65 which allows siblings or children of adopted people to access adoption files for medical treatment.  Status:  Passed the Senate and House.

SB 247:  Amends the laws on who can petition to adopt a child in Georgia by providing that a court should determine if the person petitioning for adoption is living with another adult  when deciding on the petition for adoption. This bill would require that the court may consider whether the person living with the petitioner would be a consistent presence in the child’s life, the nature of the relationship, and whether the presence of the other adult or relationship will be harmful or beneficial to the child as a factor in considering an application for adoption. Status:  Rests in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

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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

Governor Nathan Deal’s new appointments to state agencies that focus on children bring some  young but proven leaders to kids’ issues.  We are excited by the prospects of these very able and dedicated public servants joining current agency directors in working together and setting goals for children.  

All have histories of cooperation and collaboration with child advocates and community service providers.  We welcome them and offer our support to improve child well being and raise our national rankings from the 40s to respectable levels.  Thank you, Governor Deal, and welcome to: 

  •  Amy Howell, former deputy in DJJ who got her start at the Barton Child Law and Policy Center at Emory Law School, will be the new commissioner of DJJ. 
  • Rachelle Carnesale, former deputy of the Office of the Child Advocate, will lead the Department of Family and Chidren’s Services.
  • Bobby Cagle, former DFCS legislative director, will lead the department of Early Care and Learning.

Pat Willis, Executive Director

Voices for Georgia’s Children

The legislature reconvened today after a two week break.  My day was a busy one as I focused on three issues that have attracted a lot of attention this session- taxes, commercial sexual exploitation of children, and guns.

 I began the morning at a rally in support of a $1 increased tax on tobacco.  The bill is what supporters are calling a win-win-win.  It is a win for children’s health as higher costs have been found to deter teen smoking.  It is a win because it has been projected to raise approximately $354 million annually in revenues.  And, finally, it is a win because it is popular.  73%of Georgia voters favor an increased tax on tobacco.

The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on a substitute to SB 304 this afternoon.  Instead of the original version of the bill which would have mandated that children under 16 could not have been prosecuted for prostitution, the substitute would, instead, provide that the child be treated as an unruly child and directs the Governor’s Office for Children and Families to develop an appropriate system of care for such children.  Advocates including Georgia Women for a Change, the Catholic Conference and the Presbytery, the Fulton County DA’s office, and a Future Not a Past spoke in support of the substitute.  Others, including Concerned Women for America and the Freedom Forum continued to express opposition and stated that the girls were not always victims but engaged in sex for money willingly and deserved punishment.  Several of the opponents’ comments led Sen. Seth Harp to ask, ‘What would Jesus have done?”  The hearing concluded without a committee vote.

Finally, late this afternoon, the Senate Special Judiciary Committee held a hearing on SB 308 which specifies where guns can be carried in public.  The bill passed the committee with just one vote opposed by Sen. Donzella James and now goes to the Rules Committee.

Mindy

Spent a day this week going through my wildly out-of-control email inbox and trying to catch-up on a few things – Okay, on a lot of things…my apologies to those of you who didn’t always get the most timely responses 😉

It was a lot of work, but I’m glad I did it. As overwhelmed as I feel by all the “updates” sent to me, the reality is they often provide great information. One I thought was particularly worth sharing came from Connect For Kids. They send biweekly email updates that cover a huge range of child advocacy topics. Apparently last year they counted the “hits” on each of the stories/links in those weekly updates and compiled a list of the most popular. Take a look at their website or go directly to any of the stories below that were of interest to folks all across the country.

b

FROM CONNECT FOR KIDS:

The Most Popular Items from Updates in 2009

Overall, you clicked on funding alerts more than any other single category in the 2009 CFK Updates. It’s not really fair to single out a few feature items, but it is interesting. Here, in a nutshell, were your favorites:

See Jim Galloway’s Political Insider Column Renee Unterman and the fight over child prostitution at http://blogs.ajc.com/political-insider-jim-galloway/2010/02/03/renee-unterman-and-the-fight-over-child-prostitution/?cxntfid=blogs_political_insider_jim_galloway

WASHINGTON – The National Disability Rights Network (NDRN) today released a follow-up to its January 2009 report School is not Supposed to Hurt —  a shocking investigation chronicling the abusive use of seclusion and restraint on schoolchildren and a lack of state and federal regulation is updated with progress made in 2009.

New report available at http://www.ndrn.org/sr/srjan10/Schoo-%20is-Not-Supposed-to-Hurt-%28NDRN%29.pdf

Various Appropriations Subcommittees will meet to hear budget presentations from agencies serving children in the upcoming days and weeks.  Here’s the schedule we have now:

Wednesday, January 27

House Appropriations- Education Subcommittee meets at  2 pm in 341 CAP for a public hearing on the FY 10 Amended Budget.  There will be a sign up sheet for members of the public who wish to speak, or you may email tammy.liner@house.ga.gov to asked to be placed on the list.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

House Appropriations- Human Resources Subommittee is scheduled to meet in 406 CLOB.  At 3 pm, they will hear a presentation from the Department of Human Services, and the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities is scheduled to give its budget presentation at 4 pm.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Senate Appropriations- Education Subcommittee will meet at 9 a.a. is 450 CAP to review FY10 Amended Budget proposals for the Department of Early Care and Learning and the Department of Education.

Monday, February 1, 2010

House Appropriations- Education Subcommittee will meet at 2 pm in 341 CAP for budget presentations from the Department of Education and will accept public comments on the FY10 amended budget.

The House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on HB 615, a bill that would, if passed, allow concealed weapons to be carried anywhere except courtrooms and jails/prisons. The bill would provide that public buildings no longer be off-limits to concealed firearms. If this version were to pass, firearms would be allowed in bars, schools, college dormitories and all campus buildings, daycare centers, churches and all establishments that are open to the public unless the property owner prohibits weapons.

 Do you have concerns?  If so, make your voice heard by attending the hearing at 1:30 in room 132 of the Capitol .

“The cell was dark inside and had a small, square window. It was the kind of set-up you saw in a mental institution, not a school.”

I attended a meeting earlier this week, one of many in fact. That alone is nothing out of the ordinary for me, nor is it alone anything worthy of a blog post. What made this meeting different were two of the attendees – parents of a then 13-year-old child who hung himself while in a seclusion room in a Georgia public school. Several days later as I try to write about it, the agony in that mother’s voice, still echoes in my head. It’s been more than five years since Jonathan King’s death and it is still painful to hear his mother speak of her loss. Maybe even more painful is the fact that this practice of seclusion continues to this day in Georgia’s schools. Fortunately that may be about to change.

The Georgia Department of Education is in the process of promulgating a new rule that protects all students from seclusion and restraint and public input is needed. There are many ways to take action and to ensure Georgia’s children are safe:

Every child has a right to feel safe in school. Take action today to help enforce that right.

beth

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