Foster care is a state program that provides temporary substitute homes for children whose families cannot provide a safe and nurturing environment for them.
Children in foster care
- Children come into the custody of DFCS for many reasons. However, only Juvenile Court has the authority to place a child in DFCS custody.
The ages of children in DFCS custody range from birth to 21; the average age is about 9.
The responsibilities of DFCS case managers statewide serving the foster care program include:
- Working with birth families on meeting goals outlined in case plans for reunification
- Selecting and placing the child in a suitable home or other placement option
- Supporting foster parents in their role as agency partners in providing care for children
- Working with other community agencies to meet the ongoing needs of children
- Keeping the court informed about the status of cases
Foster parents are recruited primarily by county DFCS staff. They look for foster parents who are in good physical and mental health, with homes that meet the minimum standards set forth and approved by the Department of Human Resources. Foster parents provide only temporary care for children, but if a foster child becomes available for adoption, foster parents often adopt the child. In fact, foster parents account for more than 80 percent of DFCS adoptions.
Prospective foster parents must complete 20 hours of pre-service training (IMPACT). Physical exams, drug screens, and criminal record checks are required. Homes also must meet other safety requirements. Foster parents complete 15 hours of parent development training and a re-evaluation every year.
The number of children placed in a home varies from one to six (including the parents' own children), and is predetermined by the parent and DFCS. Foster parents are reimbursed according to the age of the child. The rate is higher for children needing medical care or a higher level of supervision. Medical treatment and clothing costs are covered by the agency.
A toll-free foster parent support and intake line (1-877-210-5437) is available for foster parents and others wanting information about Georgia's foster care program.
Citizens review panels and CASA programs
Many citizens take an active role in Georgia's foster care program by serving on a Citizens Review Panel. Panel members, who are appointed by a Juvenile or Superior Court judge, review agency case plans for children and make sure that they find permanent homes as quickly as possible. In some counties, a judge does the case review. CASA volunteers (Court-Appointed Special Advocates) act on behalf of the court in representing the best interest of children in care during the judicial process.
New directions in the foster care program
- The Comprehensive Child and Family Assessment initiative has expanded statewide where counties work with a team of professionals to better identify the strengths and needs of families and children. DFCS can then place children in the setting that best meets their particular needs, decreasing the number of times children change placements.
- Family conferences bring relatives, friends, foster parents and professionals together to help the family develop and provide a protection and care plan for their children. This gives families more say in their children's care.
- Most of the children in foster care are reunited with their families. But for some children, reunification may not be the best option. New legislation makes it possible for children who are unlikely to return to their birth family to be placed in a permanent home more quickly. Now, a permanency plan must be determined within 12 months after a child comes into care. Options may include reunification, placement with other relatives or guardian, adoption or another permanent living alternative. Currently, children remain in foster care for an average of one year and seven months.