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Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue
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Division of Family and Children Services to Undergo Major Restructuring

Thursday, February 26, 2004  Contact: Office of Communications 404-651-7774


Overhaul to Improve Safety of Georgia's Children

Atlanta - Governor Sonny Perdue announced today a major reorganization of the Georgia Department of Human Resources (DHR) Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS) to ensure the safety and well-being of Georgia's children.

"The reorganization of the Division of Family and Children Services is a significant step toward greater protection of this state's most precious resource - our children," said Governor Sonny Perdue. "These changes will help to redefine the quality of services we provide to children in state care and their families."

DFCS will initiate this reorganization beginning April 1, 2004. It is designed to better protect children and strengthen families. DFCS Director Dr. Janet Oliva, DHR Board Chair Bruce Cook, and others spent five months gathering information, statistics, getting feedback from communities around Georgia, and reviewing other states' efforts.

"Based on our research, states that have implemented similar changes have seen a reduction in staff turnover and an increase in retention, as well as an increase in pride of work. The continued dedication and commitment of our DFCS staff is important to ensure successful implementation of this reorganization," said DFCS Director Janet Oliva.

The DFCS Reorganization Plan has four major components.

1. Two operating offices within the division. The Office of Child Protection will focus on child protection as a single priority, and The Office of Family Independence will focus on moving families from economic dependence to economic independence.

2. Child Protection Certification Program and Career Path Program. Both programs will help develop professional staff that will improve the quality of work and encourage retention.

3. Rapid Response Team. The team(s) will be deployed to counties with excessively high caseload issues.

4. College Child Protection Certification Program. The program will be specifically for undergraduate students majoring in social work. In addition to students' program of study, a consortium of Georgia colleges and universities throughout the state will offer curricula consistent with the content of the Office of Child Protection Certification Program.

With the reorganization, DFCS expects to substantially reduce child protection caseloads and will require child protection caseworkers to acquire certification. Additionally, DFCS expects to reduce staff turnover to 8% and to significantly increase work participation by Temporary Assistance for Needy Family (TANF) recipients.

"These changes will not happen overnight, but rather over the next twelve months. With the commitment of DHR leadership, the newly formed DFCS Advisory Board, the state colleges and universities, and the community at large, we have the potential to provide the protective services the children of Georgia deserve," said DHR Board Chairman Bruce Cook.

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Division of Family and Children Services

Strategic Reorganization Plan

Questions and Answers

1. Why is this reorganization necessary?

Development of the two separate offices, the Office of Child Protection and the Office of Family Independence, will give greater focus to the two main goals of the Division - protecting children and strengthening families. It will enable management staff to provide more intense oversight to their respective program areas.

2. Will this create better outcomes for children?

Yes, staff will be better trained and more closely supervised to provide services to families and children. Better training, increased experience, and close oversight should enhance staff capacity to make good decisions and promote child safety.

3. How will the reorganization affect client access to services?

Customers will continue to access the full array of services at their local county DFCS office.

4. How much will this reorganization cost?

With restructuring of the state office, more staff are being diverted to work in the field to assist with management of county workloads. This should decrease staff turnover and increase the experience level of county staff. Significant cost savings should be realized through reduced frequency of new caseworker training.

5. Will salary for staff in the Office of Child Protection be competitive?

Staff must be certified to work in the Office of Child Protection and meet ongoing training requirements. A career path offers salary incentives and other rewards to those staff who participate in additional professional development training activities. The agency has made a renewed commitment to having salary levels which will attract and retain a well-qualified, professional work force.

6. Has this been attempted successfully in other states?

Georgia's Child Protection Certification Program is modeled on some of the features of Kentucky's Public Child Welfare Certification Program. Since its implementation in 1997, Kentucky's retention rate among graduates of its PCWCP is substantially higher than those not participating in the program. Kentucky's turnover rate dropped from 23% to 5.5% and vacancies were all but eliminated. Graduates of the program are better prepared to handle complex cases sooner, more skilled in interacting with clients, more knowledgeable of policy and procedures, and more positive in their attitudes about the agency and their jobs.

7. When will this change take place?

The two separate offices are expected to begin transition April 1, 2004, become operational July 1, 2004 with completion by December 31, 2004.