Thursday, January 17, 2008

Governor Perdue Moves to Unite Child Welfare Agencies

Today Governor Sonny Perdue took action to restructure four agencies responsible for serving Georgia’s at-risk children and families to better serve the state’s child advocacy community. The Children’s Trust Fund Commission (CTF) will combine with the Children and Youth Coordinating Council (CYCC) and become the Governor’s Office for Children and Families. The Office of the Child Advocate (OCA) will assume the responsibilities of the Office of Child Fatality Review (OCFR).

“By combining the skills and resources of these agencies, we will be in a better position to ensure that our child welfare system is strong and that we are funding those programs that our policy research shows are proven to work,” said Governor Sonny Perdue. “With this reorganization, we will have a more unified approach to serving all at-risk children, from infancy through adolescence.”

The two new agencies will work together to ensure consistency and effectiveness in child welfare planning, policy and funding. The combined agencies will also report directly to the Governor’s Office and work closely with policy staff and child welfare agency leadership.

"This strategy is designed to maximize the impact of resources invested in communities to support the healthy development of children and youth,” said Pam Brown, Program Director of Prevent Child Abuse Georgia. “It promotes shared responsibility between the state and community for comprehensive and cohesive program planning, implementation and accountability which is so important for the success and sustainability of efforts."

Governor Perdue also announced the Children and Family Services Strengthening Act of 2008, legislation that the Governor intends to introduce in the upcoming session to make this agency reform permanent. The combined funding agency, to be called the Governor’s Office for Children and Families, will share office space with the expanded Office of the Child Advocate, which will continue its responsibility to oversee and improve the state’s child protection system.

“I’m looking forward to being able to work in partnership with the new Governor's Office for Children and Families,” said State Child Advocate Tom Rawlings. “While OCA will remain an independent agency, sharing office space will allow us to share ideas and to work together toward our mutual goal of improving the lives of Georgia’s children.”

Upon legislative approval, the Governor’s Office for Children and Families will rely on a consolidated board composed of CYCC and CTF board members to make grants to communities. Additionally, the alignment of staff resources will allow funding of a continuum of services, from child abuse prevention to juvenile delinquency treatment. The Governor’s Office for Children and Families will also serve as the new home for the First Lady’s Children’s Cabinet.

“By combining the expertise of our staff and citizen boards, we will now be able to target the entire family cycle, from the at-risk infant to the troubled teen,” said Jen Bennecke, Executive Director of the newly created Governor’s Office for Children and Families.

The Children’s Trust Fund has funded over $25,000,000 in child abuse prevention projects in local communities. The CYCC disburses millions of dollars annually to local abstinence education, delinquency prevention and juvenile justice projects.

The Office of Child Fatality Review uses local data on child deaths to develop policies and practices designed to prevent such deaths. The youngest of the four agencies, OCA, is the state’s independent ombudsman for child welfare practice and policy.

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