Budget passes with money for 175 new child caseworkers

ATLANTA -- We cannot forget it, we have to learn from it.

Those were the words of Gov. Nathan Deal after the death of Emani Moss. The little girl's body was found starved, burned in a trash can. Gov. Deal promised he would fight for money money to hire case workers and continue to add to the ranks for two more years.

On Wednesday, lawmakers passed round one, $7.3 million to hire 175 new case workers.

"We think this is necessary to address this very serious problem," said the governor when announcing his plan.

Even 11Alive's own investigation found one child that died after a case worker failed to follow up on reports of abuse. He had 41 active cases and simply not enough time.

"We know in order to do good work our case managers have to be able to focus on a certain number of cases at hand," said DFCS Director Sharon Hill.

The 2014-15 budget, which goes into affect July 1, also includes $1.2 million from another department to refocus child abuse prevention and home visit efforts.

It includes $911,000 to increase the number of intake workers, answering calls from mandatory reporters and the community, on suspected abuse.

It also allocates $74,000 to train 1,500 case workers on forensic interviewing skills. The goal is to help them better detect abuse, even if the child is not able to talk about it.

"We cannot rely on children to be able to sound the alarm about what's happening to them," said Hill.

Eric Forbes is a recent example. The 12-year old died from battered child syndrome, basically his body gave up after repeated forms of abuse. According to his DFCS case file, workers talked with him on several occasions, but he never let on to the pain he was suffering.

The budget also provides $300,000 to expand Court Appointed Special Advocates, or CASA. CASA volunteers advocate for the children involved in the welfare system and help provide DFCS with another perspective on what the child needs.


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