Community partners come together to help children in county welfare system
by Michelle Babcock
September 06, 2013 11:55 PM | 3713 views | 0 0 comments | 22 22 recommendations | email to a friend | print
CANTON — Based on some of the latest data presented at a community summit Friday morning, Cherokee County has a higher rate of reuniting children in foster care with their families than the statewide rate.

But community partners are still hoping to improve the experience of children who come in contact with the state’s child welfare system.

Christopher Church, data and policy specialist for the Children’s Law Center, gave a presentation on child welfare priorities in Georgia during the summit on justice for children Friday morning, which was sponsored by the Supreme Court of Georgia’s Committee on Justice for Children and the state Division of Family and Children Services.

According to the 2013 discharge data that Church presented, 53 percent of children in Cherokee County foster care are reunited with their family, compared to 49 percent statewide.

Cherokee Division of Family and Children Services Director Charity Kemp attended the summit, and said the information presented will be used to formulate better practices in the child welfare system.

“We had some statistics for Cherokee County specifically that were brought forth by the data and policy attorney that was there that gave us specific numbers,” Kemp said. “Having that information allows us to look at it more in-depth on what preventative work we can do with the families. Specifically in certain geographical areas.”

Kemp said that by tracking specific geographic areas, the county can determine where and how to approach preventative solutions.

“We’re always trying to come together as community partners and view these as Cherokee’s children, not just DFCS or the court’s or particular entities of the community’s, but to approach things from a perspective of the whole community being involved,” Kemp said. “We typically try to come together in those capacities and look at what the different approaches are so that we can accomplish our goals better, and what current studies are showing and what effect it has on our approaches.”

Judge John Sumner, presiding judge of Cherokee County Juvenile Court, helped arrange the community summit, where officials from various organizations discussed the importance of working together to help children in Cherokee County.

Kemp said officials from Cherokee DFCS, Juvenile Court, Court Appointed Special Advocate Association, Guardian Ad Litem, law enforcement, Goshen Valley, Angel House, private provider agencies and many other community partners attended the summit.

Based on Church’s presentation, data shows about 38 percent of child abuse is not reported to the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services, and of the 62 percent reported, about 9 percent of children are removed from their home and placed in foster care.

In Church’s presentation, he explained the reasons children in Cherokee were removed from their homes.

“Neglect, caretaker drug or alcohol abuse and inadequate housing are the top three,” according to the presentation.

Cherokee County foster children have a higher rate of being placed with a relative than in non-relative foster care, the data showed.

The presentation showed 30 percent of Cherokee children were placed with a relative through foster care, as opposed to 17 percent statewide.

Kemp said that there were presentations on many topics within child welfare, including one about reducing the amount of trauma that children experience with going into foster care, and said that trying to reduce trauma is important.

“We talked about scheduling a follow-up summit in a couple of months, to come back together and see how we could apply that preventative, proactive approach,” Kemp said.

The summit was Friday morning from 8:30 a.m. until 12:30 p.m., at the Northside Hospital-Cherokee Conference Center in Canton.

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