Thursday, April 16, 2009

Welfare Watch Newsletter - April 15, 2009 - DHR Board Meets

Note: As a rule we don't share newsletters, but we've found the Welfare Watch newsletters to be interesting so we've been passing them along. We'll try to watch the readership and comments to see whether you find them similarly worthy of reading. - GFP

HB228 will change the way Georgia provides child welfare services in Georgia. This legislation breaks the Department of Human Resources into two new Departments, the Department of Human Services (DHS) and the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities (DBHDD). Public Health and most regulatory functions of DHR will move to the Department of Community Health. The community living arrangements, residential and foster care regulatory functions of the Office of Regulatory Services will remain with the new DHS.

The Divisions of Family and Children's Services, Aging and Child Support will remain with DHS. The DHR Board was presented with an organizational chart that clearly maps how the new Departments and Divisions will look. Health and Human Services Restructuring Legislation

Within the new Department of Human Services, child welfare will continue with the values that have been driving its practice over the last several years. These values have been largely shaped and informed by best practice, Federal and State policies, and lawsuits. These practices are supported by outcomes that have been tracked over the last several years. Safety and permanency are the paramount values within the Department and are measured through ten outcome measures. The Board received their monthly Child Welfare Outcomes report. The number of children who are in our child protective service system and our child placement systems are at a five year low. The number of children who are reunited with their families or relatives or are adopted, remains a concern of the Department. These numbers have reached a plateau over the last year and remain well below their targets.

Family centered practice will continue to be a focus of this new Department. Mark Washington and his consultants presented a proposed Roadmap to Continued Transformation Through Values Driven Practice. Within this roadmap the emphasis is placed on prevention, family supports, community partnerships, use of best practice and leadership teams.

B.J. Walker, the last commissioner of DHR and the first commissioner of DHS, in her report presented her concerns about the budget. The new Department will have a $1.6 billion budget. This is $133 million less than its base in FY08. In spite of deep cuts, much of the budget for FY09 and FY10 is dependent on TANF funds. These funds will run out at the end of FY10. Her concern is how the hole that TANF and the stimulus dollars are presently filling will be replaced later. There are no guarantees that the economy will improve, and these dollars can be later filled with State dollars.

Welfare Watch,
an email newsletter of the
Georgia Association of Homes and Services
for Childrenas a public service.
Normer Adams, Editor

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