One option to solving foster care issues: Privatization

10:27 PM, Jan 10, 2014   |    comments
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(AP file)

(WXIA) - Georgia state House Speaker David Ralston says he is open to privatizing the state Department of Family and Children Services.

11Alive News has learned that officials from the Department of Human Services, which runs DFCS, visited Florida recently to meet with its department. The major focus: the privatization of foster care.

"Any time you have children dying in state custody, that's a serious issue," Ralston said.

Ralston did not get specific Thursday on the issue of resolving DFCS' issues, but state officials do see one potential move.

"If a child does need placement, they turn to a private agency for all placements," said Mark Washington of the Washington Group.

Privately handled foster care. Several states do this now, including the Sunshine State. Florida outsources its foster care to 20 non-profits; each handles a specific region. The benefits?

"Enabling a state agency to focus," Washington said. "They've designed through well-constructed contracts what kind of product they want in that area."

But DFCS has faced scrutiny for what comes before foster care. The deaths of Eric Forbes and Emani Moss last fall highlighted failures in case management and identifying abuse.

"Will privatization of foster care in any way solve mismanagement of cases?" asked 11Alive's Matt Pearl.

"I think the two are connected," Washington said.

Mark Washington served as DFCS director for two years and now consults other states on this very topic. He says privatized foster care hasn't succeeded everywhere, and each state needs its own solution.

"The key to Florida, what makes it a success, is that it works in Florida," Washington said.


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