This latest report, which looks at the last six months of 2013, found the agency’s performance slipping in terms of quickly starting these investigations and interviewing the children. The report also pointed to rising caseloads for state workers, which likely contributed to the delays in investigations, Lustbader said.
Georgia has been experiencing problems with investigations across the entire DFCS system, as recently reported by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The report showed these problems occur not only with investigations into neglect and abuse in the general public, but extend into the state foster care system, as well.
Last month, The AJC reported that almost half the state's child abuse and neglect investigations — more than 3,000 — were past the mandated 45 days for completion, raising concerns that children are being left in unsafe homes.
To whittle the backlog, DFCS Interim Director Bobby Cagle ordered all agency investigators to work a minimum of eight hours of overtime a week until it's eliminated. Last week, Gov. Nathan Deal approved the hiring of 100 new child protective service workers to handle the problems in the system, which adds a total of 275 new caseworkers to the agency.
The monitors’ report noted some improvements, as well, in keeping children assigned to the same caseworker and in meeting children’s health care needs, which has been a long-standing problem for DFCS.
The rate of abuse and neglect in Georgia’s foster care system has fluctuated in recent years but showed improvement in this latest report.
“The division remains committed to improving its practices and its oversight of the foster care system,” said DFCS spokeswoman Ashley Fielding. She added the agency will continue “to focus in on opportunities that will improve the quality of life of Georgia’s most vulnerable children.”