New transparency law still leaves DFCS' role a mystery

ATLANTA -- Georgia's new law aimed at increasing transparency within DFCS, the department responsible for protecting children in our state, still leaves a lot of facts behind black ink.

11Alive requested five case summaries of children who had died with a DFCS case history before and after the law went into effect to see how it would change the type of information released.

The public can now receive the deceased child's name, gender and the year they were born. The state will also tell us about their parents or care takers, along with the ages of other siblings in the household.

But when it comes to the case history, DFCS' actual involvement in the family's life, the page turns black. The law does allow for the redaction of medical history, communications with an attorney and records related to an open law enforcement criminal case.

DFCS says the information covered has to do with other children in the household who are still alive, therefore is not available to the public. But an argument could be made the information still provides historical context needed to understand the types of behavior once investigated in the family and whether decisions with other siblings could have played a role.

The information uncovered can be revealing, whether its to expose the multitude of attempts made on the part of DFCS to get the family help, or poor decisions made in how to handle dangerous family relations.

A case that showed both belonged to Hannah Truelove, a Hall county teenager found dead in the woods near her apartment. Nearly two years after her murder, no one has been arrested.

When we first got her case summary, we knew someone had requested three times that she be put in DFCS custody. Now we know it was DFCS that actually fought against it, offering the family "services" instead. The judge agreed.

"I think that's imperative information for the public to be able to know what was the state's involvement," said Ashley Willcott, an attorney and Director of the Office of the Child Advocate.


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