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Record-low number of Georgia foster children being housed in hotels after DFCS push, state says

The state has spent millions in taxpayer dollars to house foster children in hotels, a practice DFCS has been trying to tackle for years.

ATLANTA — A push to find homes for Georgia's foster care children seems to be improving , the state's Division of Family & Children Services reports.

The state has spent millions in taxpayer dollars to house foster children in hotels, a practice DFCS has been trying to tackle for years.

Candice Broce, the commissioner of the Georgia Department of Human Services, which oversees DFCS, said the issues known as "hoteling" extends well beyond Georgia in a Wednesday state Senate committee hearing.

In the interim, hoteling not only comes at a cost to children, who miss out on needed services and school, but also cuts into the department’s budget. On average, hoteling costs around $1,500 per night including the cost of the room, meals, and DFCS behavior aides, according to DFCS data compiled by Voices. 

RELATED: Lawmakers push to stop housing foster kids in hotels

Last year, the state spent around $28 million in hoteling costs, with some children being stuck in the system for months.

Now, joint efforts from lawmakers, social activists and state social workers created a record-low number of foster kids in hotels.

"Ultimately, we may get to zero when it comes to hoteling and effectuate every policy we can to make it very hard to hotel a child," Broce said in the meeting on Wednesday. 

She added that the state has a harder time finding placement for foster children with a developmental or intellectual disability or have prior involvement with the delinquency system. 

“A lot of times, it's children who are struggling with developmental disabilities and other traumas, and so what happens is you can't find a place for them to go,” Polly McKinney, advocacy director for Voices for Georgia’s Children, told 11Alive earlier this year.

Many of these youth are abandoned, and many are in need of specialized services like therapeutic foster care and crisis intervention centers, both of which are limited around the state, McKinney explained.

“These children end up staying in motels, basically, or in DFCS offices with caseworkers with them 24/7 to help manage their behaviors as best they can while they try to figure out what to do," McKinney said. 

State officials said at least five children are currently being housed in hotels as of August 9, which is down 100 kids a night than last year.

The new numbers beat the previous state average which was around 50 to 70 children in foster care with complex needs housed in state offices or hotels every night.

Lawmakers have set aside $10 million in next year's fiscal budget to fight the problem. 

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