Senate again takes aim at Georgia child welfare agency

One of the biggest proponents behind last year’s failed attempt to privatize Georgia’s child welfare system is back with a new plan to bypass the state’s foster care system.

This time, however, it would be on a much smaller scale, what state Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford, called "a step further toward privatization. And I think it's a good route to go."

Senate Bill 3, which will be introduced in the chamber when lawmakers next convene Jan. 26, would allow a struggling parent to give temporary custody of their children to a friend or person they know for up to one year as they get back on their feet.

The pairing would not be handled by the state or the Division of Family and Children Services, which controls Georgia’s foster care system. Instead, it would be made through faith-based groups or nonprofit organizations trained in crisis intervention.

The proposal comes after Gov. Nathan Deal’s Child Welfare Reform Council issued recommendations to improve the troubled child welfare agency by creating a child abuse registry, adding pay incentives for DFCS caseworkers and developing a “panic button’’ to increase safety for workers in the field.