Georgia DFCS director is out

The director of Georgia's Division of Family and Children Services is out of a job after less than a year, and it's not clear whether she left voluntarily.

DFCS Director Rachelle Carnesale, a former prosecutor, had been handpicked by Gov. Nathan Deal to lead the state's child welfare system when he took office in January.

No public announcement was made to say she was gone, and DFCS officials would not say when she left the job.

A spokeswoman for the state Human Services Department, to which the DFCS reports, on Monday confirmed Carnesale's departure to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution but said only that the state "will name an interim DFCS director this week. A search for a permanent director will take place in the coming months," department spokeswoman Ravae Graham said.

DFCS investigates child welfare and neglect, and handles everything from child support to financial assistance for families. The state expected to spend $257 million on child welfare this year.

Carnesale's departure surprised child advocates. Normer Adams, the executive director for the Georgia Association of Homes and Services for Children said he knew of no criticisms about Carnesale. She could not be reached for comment Monday.

"She was about safety and establishing protocols that represented best practice," Adams said. "I thought she was on a good path."

In February, following four deaths within three weeks of children who had contact with the agency, the newly appointed Carnesale said some longtime DFCS practices were under scrutiny. She also had to deal with issues about which she had no control.

In October, after federal benefits -- vouchers for food and health care -- abruptly stopped for families including in Cobb, Cherokee and Douglas counties, the agency could only acknowledge that local staffers had been overwhelmed by demand and failed to process nearly 650 food stamp reviews since September.

Carnesale came to DFCS as acting director for the state's Office of the Child Advocate. A Emory University law school graduate, she specialized as a prosecutor in child abuse cases including in DeKalb and Cherokee counties. After coming to work for the state, she developed training about child abuse for case workers.