You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.


  • ePAPER

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks


Welcome to

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on

Privatized care may be a great start

Georgia has seen its share of struggles and successes in its foster care system. Citizens may find it difficult to discern what is real and how prevalent are the issues. The complexities and varying geographies complicate a process of quick-and-easy solutions.

Expectations of citizens and stakeholders are not the problem. Everyone desires a state where children are safe, where families provide the love and support they need to be successful, and where every child has lifelong connections to other adults. The pathway to finding better results seems elusive from the outside looking in.

These widely held expectations drive the few involved — paid and pro bono — to improve the system one family at a time. While some are led to volunteer, foster or adopt, many more are needed to meet expectations. Many individuals are disconnected and distant from a system that has moving parts, players and intersections. More than ever, people in every community are needed to lend time and talent into a stretched, under-resourced system.

The concerns of the past year involving DFCS have led our elected officials to take notice. Gov. Nathan Deal and a group of legislators have initiated a two-pronged response. Deal has reversed the draconian budget cuts of the last six years by replacing 10 percent of the $74 million lost from DFCS and adding staff. While new money is laudable, this step alone will not be enough.

Last week, the Georgia Senate introduced legislation that would privatize the foster care system, effectively placing all services sans investigations with private nonprofits. The bill provides for more localized involvement in buying the services families need, and proposes an atmosphere where communities have a greater voice in the care of children.

Stakeholders, providers and adults who work to support the system are asking questions. They’re curious about how these changes will affect them and the services they provide. They wonder if new service opportunities will be created. They’re frustrated that the accelerated pace of legislation has left them without a voice.

It’s notable that young people who have experienced the foster care system have slightly different concerns. They want to know if this change will help them, their families and their futures. They want to find permanent, loving homes quickly. They’re desperate to stay connected to their families and communities.

These latter questions are the ones that truly matter. We must answer these questions well and with integrity, accepting the system’s complexity and clarifying our collective expectations by investing the energy and money necessary to meet these expectations.

While this legislation is not a panacea to cure all that ails, if a pay-for-performance approach brings about more local involvement and increased funding for protective services and foster care — and if it is put into operation with planning — it may be the start of a better tomorrow.

Mark A. Washington is managing partner of The Washington Group, an Atlanta-based child welfare and behavioral health consulting group.

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Opinion

Opinion: Trump’s policies weaken womens’ health around the world

When video surfaced last fall of Donald Trump boasting about sexual assault, outrage erupted. But if Trump’s words about women were offensive, his policies are incomparably more consequential — and may cost more lives than in any other area of his governance. Yes, the phrase “war on women” may seem hyperbolic, but it also reflects...
Should schools provide second chances to cops with checkered pasts?
Should schools provide second chances to cops with checkered pasts?

An Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Channel 2 Actions News investigation of officers hired by school police departments revealed a troubling practice: School police forces employ officers who have been terminated or resigned under the cloud of an investigation at twice the rate of local police departments. The story explained: Roughly 12...
Readers Write: May 24

U.S. heading down dangerous path Throughout history you will find countries that self-destructed because of internal strife. This country, the “United” States of America seems to be heading down a similar path. No matter who gets elected to lead us there is always someone who wants to undermine his/her efforts. If the scientists are correct...
Opinion: Question for Georgia GOP: What is a state party anymore?
Opinion: Question for Georgia GOP: What is a state party anymore?

Georgia GOP Chairman John Padgett. (AJC Photo / Bob Andres) In less than two weeks the Georgia Republican Party will have a new chairman.
Opinion: Pranked by Democrats? No, this ad is all Mast

An oddly timed political commercial has been appearing on West Palm Beach television stations, aimed at voters in Florida’s 18th congressional district. The ad urges people to call Rep. Brian Mast and thank him for courageously standing with President Trump and working to repeal Obamacare. At first the commercial appears to be a prank hatched...
More Stories