Mike Klein Online

Should Georgia Slow Down Foster Care Pilot Project?



Has Georgia chosen a fast road toward its foster care privatization pilot project when a slower, more deliberate road might produce a better outcome? Is this the tortoise and hare story again?

“All of us in state government at one time or another have been given an order to get something done in less time than you need,” says Mark A. Washington. “You work to achieve that but if more time was possible to design it differently or respond differently, I think kids would benefit.”

Washington is managing partner of The Washington Group, a Georgia-based consultancy that works in juvenile justice, foster care, managed care and other policy sectors. Washington was Georgia’s state Division of Family and Children Services director in 2008 – 2010 after three years with the same responsibilities in Kentucky. Today he asks, “Why are we moving so fast?”

Washington and other child welfare advocates met with state officials this week in Atlanta in the only face-to-face opportunity they will have to question officials about the foster care project.  State employees were about one-third of less than thirty attendees who were sparsely sprinkled throughout a large auditorium. Attendance was optional which might explain the crowd size.

This spring the state announced a foster care pilot project would start in many north – northwest counties (Region 3) and eastern counties (Region 5). The state request-for-proposals was posted June 23, the informational meeting was held June 30 and documents must be filed with the state no later than July 18. The period from RFP to final submission is not even one month.

This is moving fast and there were plenty of reasonable questions at the Monday meeting:

Does the state know whether existing foster care families in Regions 3 and 5 are willing to transfer from state Division of Family and Children Services supervision to a contracted private agency supervising a foster care child? “We haven’t surveyed them,” said a state child welfare services official. “We hope they all would be willing.” That means the state does not know.

Washington asked whether the state would provide information regarding the therapeutic needs and the level of care assigned to each child in Regions 3 and 5. This would include behavioral health and other medical service required by kids who would be transferred from state to so-called private supervision. The answer: No, that was not planned. Later a state official told Washington that his suggestion could be considered.

Would the state be willing to enter into contracts that are longer than one state fiscal year? The answer: No, contracts will be for one year but a successful supplier could be renewed annually through June 30, 2019, after review. One year is how most state contracts are written. BUT: Entering into new relationships this complicated often requires substantial upfront financial investment and greater financial guarantees than you can put into an annual contract.

Would an agency that manages foster care services become financially responsible for costs if the numbers of foster children or services they require exceed estimates? The answer: No, an agency will be reimbursed for numbers of foster children and their services.

Here’s another question: Will any of this make Georgia kids safer?

Recent headlines about Georgia child deaths were not generated from foster care. Two kids who died last year were in child protective services investigations, but they were not part of foster care. Both kids were living with the primary adults in their lives, and that was unfortunate. A child who died this year also was in protective services and was not involved in foster care.

Jean Logan is a former Florida deputy assistant secretary for children, youth and families and earlier, she worked in Wisconsin children services. Today Logan’s firm Strategic Partners consults widely in the public sector. “The majority of the impact on whether kids get hurt or killed is not going to happen in this (foster care) contract,” Logan after Monday’s meeting.

Logan said privatization could “improve the quality of the places that they are living and their wellbeing which is something that child welfare has done very poorly but it’s not going to impact the things that hit the paper which are kids dying or being injured because that is happening prior to (foster care). In the South my experience has been headlines drive public policy.”

Foster care privatization — how it should be organized, how the financial model should work, whether some services would be unnecessarily duplicated and much more — is certain to generate many headlines for months. Whether it generates good public policy is discussion for another day. There is this advice from Mark Washington: “In Georgia, our investment needs to start aligning with our expectations. We can learn from other states’ experience. Let’s start smart, start small.”

Additional Resources:

Georgia Child Welfare Reform Council

New Detail About Georgia Foster Care Pilot Project

YouTube Georgia Foster Care Hearings Coverage

(Mike Klein is Editor at the Georgia Public Policy Foundation)

(Published Thursday, July 3, 2014)

July 3, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

New Details About Georgia Foster Care Privatization Pilot Project



Georgia has published its foster care privatization pilot project request for proposals and a couple conclusions seem possible: Newcomers to child welfare service need not apply and it seems possible a long time could pass before any final decision about whether to privatize services provided to vulnerable children.

The RFP published on a state website indicates initial contracts would be for one year, renewable for another four years, and applicants are required to estimate costs through June 30, 2019.

The state will hire at least one but not more than two organizations to manage foster care in two service regions. The so-called “lead agency” will coordinate foster care service with sub-agencies and individual families who provide foster care.

The state proposal says potential service providers must have “a minimum of seven years of expertise in child welfare services in Georgia” and must provide “audited financial statements for the latest three fiscal years.”

The state document was published Monday of this week and bids close Friday, July 18. A conference to discuss the project is scheduled for 1:00 pm, Monday, June 30, at the Capitol Education Center office building directly across from the State Capitol in downtown Atlanta.

The request for proposals document is almost 150 total pages. The state foster care pilot project will take place in several north and northwest counties (Region 3) and eastern counties (Region 5) of Georgia. Some of the state’s most populous counties – Cobb, Fulton, Gwinnett, Clayton and Douglas, for example – are not included in the pilot project.

The Georgia Division of Family and Children Services would continue to operate foster care in 13 of the state’s 15 service regions, but not in the pilot project regions. The Scope of Work chapter, on page four, describes nine specific goals for the foster care pilot project:

• Build a trauma-informed network that provides for optimal, safe and stable placement services to children.
• Ensure that children’s well-being needs are met.
• Ensure that children are in the least restrictive and most appropriate placements.
• Maintain children in their school of origin.
• Ensure that siblings are placed together.
• Ensure that family and community connections are maintained.
• Reduce the use of congregate care placements.  (Editor’s Note: This means group homes.)
• Ensure a quality adoption services program.
• Improve youth’s preparation for independent living.

The Scope of Work chapter states, “Under this project in the pilot regions, DFCS would no longer provide child placement services, which includes the development and supervision of foster homes … DFCS would not seek to recruit or develop any new foster homes in these two regions. DFCS will, however, continue to develop and supervise relative / kinship homes.”

The lead agency provider or providers will be required to submit an extensive array of reports and various categories will be evaluated monthly, quarterly and annually. A monthly report will be submitted to the state’s new Child Welfare Reform Council.

Foster care privatization has been under the microscope since last fall when Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle convened a legislative study committee. Hearing witnesses were passionate in support of and opposition to a proposal that would strip foster care supervision away from the state Division of Family and Children Services. A full privatization bill that passed the Senate died in the House and the two chambers could not agree on any kind of privatization pilot project.

Governor Nathan Deal intervened on several fronts this spring. He created the Child Welfare Reform Council to study all children issues. He ordered that a foster care pilot project start in two regions and then this month Deal removed existing DFCS management, installed his own executive team and ordered that DFCS now report directly to his office.

Children are the face of foster care. Georgia had 8,299 open foster care cases at the end of March this year. About 48 percent of those children were placed with agencies or institutions, about 32 percent were with a DFCS foster home and the remainder lived with relatives.

The pilot project will test whether privatization in two economically challenged service regions can recruit, develop and maintain quality foster care homes. Region 3 in northwest Georgia and Region 5 in east Georgia consistently require more foster care than available assets can cover.

The RFP notes that the foster care lead agency must be able to provide service 24 hours per day, seven days per week. The service provider decision is anticipated in late September or early October and the chosen provider must be ready to provide all service within 120 days of an executed contract, or as soon as the state decides the vendor is ready.

Given those calendar parameters, it seems likely that the actual pilot project would not be up and running until sometime late this year or perhaps even very early next year.

Additional Resources:

Request for Proposals Document Published Monday, June 23, 2014

Georgia Child Welfare Reform Council Website

(Mike Klein is Editor at the Georgia Public Policy Foundation)

(Published Tuesday, June 24, 2014)

June 24, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

Foster Care Youth Always Need Someone in Their Corner



Crystal Williams did not have a regular kid life. She had no father at home. Her baby brother died from sudden infant death syndrome. A grandmother and other relatives helped to raise Crystal and two sisters. Her mother moved the family from Memphis to Atlanta when Crystal was nine, then into and through a series of homeless shelters. By age ten she was in Georgia foster care. No, Crystal Williams did not have a regular kid life. Nearly two decades later she has emerged as a forceful voice for foster care youth.

“Young people need permanent connections,” Williams said when she addressed the Georgia Child Welfare Reform Council last week in a meeting at Emory University Law School. “I can’t begin to describe how detrimental it is to age out of foster care or just be an adult period without people to connect to. Your car breaks down on the side of the road, you don’t know how to change a tire and you realize, I have no one to call; (that) is extremely detrimental.”

Williams is also a Child Welfare Reform Council member, appointed by Governor Nathan Deal specifically because she can speak eloquently and forcefully about what foster youth experience because she was one. “I hear stories like that all the time of young people who come to a place and they realize, wow, I have no one at this moment. My biggest thing is a person should never feel like that. No young person should ever feel like that in any situation.”

Williams spoke to the Council for nearly an hour; the video excerpt below is from the Georgia Public Policy Foundation YouTube channel. The Child Welfare Reform Council website videos section will upload her complete testimony and also segments from others who spoke Thursday.



Williams is a co-founder of EmpowerMEnt, an organization to assist foster youth. Last fall she appeared before a state Senate committee that heard testimony about a proposal to expand the role of private foster care providers. She has written one book, “Stronger, An Inspirational Journey,” and she focuses continuously on how to help foster youth.

“One thing I get a lot is, hey, you were in foster care, get over it,” Williams said. “I totally get that everybody had something difficult happen in their past, everybody had that moment where it was just hard and tough, but I do want to address we are discussing young people who have experienced complex trauma and it’s extremely real for these young people who have been through foster care and it’s going to look extremely different for every young person.”

The mission of the Child Welfare Reform Council is to consider every aspect of children services, including foster care, resources needed by investigators and courts, ideas to address a shortage of foster care homes, and especially, how to continue to assist children who age out of foster care and, theoretically, should be able to make it in the outside world.

“I maintain my connection with my adopted family. They are phenomenal people,” Williams said. “They actually adopted me as an adult. I heard a young person recently say, I’m 17 years old, nobody’s going to adopt me, nobody’s going to want me in their family. It hurts my heart because even if it’s not adoption, young people need permanent connections.”

Click here or click the video to watch this excerpt.

(Mike Klein is Editor at the Georgia Public Policy Foundation.)

(Published Monday, June 16, 2014)

June 16, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | Leave a comment