A culture of secrecy undergirds Georgia’s child-protection services, an investigation by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution shows.
Even when the state Division of Family and Children’s Services errs so badly that a child dies, the AJC found, it makes public only the most cursory information about cases of abuse and neglect.
“We would like to be as transparent as possible in these cases,” said Sharon Hill, DFCS’ state director. But “protecting the privacy of the child is deeply important to us.”
Protecting a child’s privacy also shields the agency and its employees from scrutiny. The AJC examined the deaths of 86 children whose families had previously been involved with DFCS. Apparent errors by DFCS workers contributed to at least 25 of the deaths.
But the agency won’t say why it removes children from their homes, why it returns them to their families, or how their circumstances devolve to a death.
The case of Jeremiah Tucker, a 4-year-old from southwest Atlanta, illustrates the lack of transparency surrounding the child-welfare system. DFCS took him into protective custody in 2010. But, disregarding a doctor’s warning that the boy’s life was endangered, agency workers quickly returned him to his mother. He died of complications from asthma in August 2012.
A DFCS on the boy’s case left intact few details about Jeremiah – not even his name. One fact remained in the document, however: “Death might have been prevented.”
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