No one held a candlelight vigil for Ziyon Green.
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Changes promised after scrutiny of system
This fall, Georgia’s perpetually troubled child-protection system found itself under the most intense scrutiny in more than a decade. Two highly publicized abuse cases in metro Atlanta and a series of articles in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution exposed systemic failures to protect Georgia children from abuse and neglect. So for the first time in several years, state officials are proposing major changes:
- Gov. Nathan Deal said he will seek a cash infusion for the Division of Family and Children’s Services — $27 million over the next three years to hire more than 500 new caseworkers and supervisors. The child-protection workforce would increase by 26 percent. Aides to Deal said the governor wanted to make up for some of the agency’s budget cuts during the economic downturn of recent years.
- The General Assembly will consider a bill in 2014 to increase public access to information about children who die despite DFCS intervention in their families. The legislation sponsored by Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver, D-Decatur, would remove some confidentiality provisions from state law that shield details about children, their families and their histories with DFCS. As the Journal-Constitution reported earlier this month, redactions from DFCS files frustrate attempts to assess the agency’s performance in abuse and neglect cases. Oliver’s bill also would move the state Child Fatality Review Panel into the Department of Public Health. The panel, which examines suspicious or unexplained deaths, now falls under the state child advocate’s office, which is part of the governor’s office.
- DFCS is reviewing cases it previously “screened out” — that is, closed without investigation, usually over the telephone — in the past year. Beginning in 2014, an external panel will review random samples of cases and flag those that should have received more attention.
How we got the story
This article is part of a series examining failures in Georgia’s child-protection system. Earlier articles looked at the inadequate investigations of many deaths, the damaging effects of the state’s attempts to reduce foster care rolls, and the culture of secrecy that prevents assessments of how well the system works.
For today’s article, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution studied child-death records from state agencies. Details about Ziyon Green also came from interviews and from a Georgia State Patrol report.