Deal empanels DFCS review but privatization won’t work

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Gov. Nathan Deal recently announced plans to empanel a task force to review Georgia’s Department of Family and Child Protection Services’ failings, and make recommendations for improvement. This is a hard-won step in the right direction.

•Since October, I have called for such a task force to address DFCS’s “front-end” matters: Independent review of DFCS’s past and current non-redacted case logs to check for missed signs;

•insist on transparency;

•improve case management, hire quality personnel and to examine endangered children.

In January, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and many Georgia state senators pushed privatization of foster care down citizens’ throats and onto the legislative floor.

In my Feb. 13 AJC article, “Screen children in danger” [http://bit.ly/1dLq8Sy], I wrote “privatization puts the cart before the horse … children aren’t dead because of faulty foster care placements. They didn’t get that far.”

Privatization is a “back-end” matter.

Oct. 29, 2013, I asked legislators for “Eric’s Law,” a “mandatory referral” of children to non-agency pediatricians. Specifically, upon a third call to DFCS about a child, that child must be referred to an independent pediatrician for examination, as well as to counselor-investigators for emotional evaluation.

In a WSB-TV report, state Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver agreed such referrals would be “excellent.”

Too often, repeat calls were made to DFCS about children suspected of being abused, yet nothing was done, or done correctly, and now children are dead. Exhibit A? Eric Forbes.

In less than a year, there were 10 calls to DFCS from teachers suspecting that Eric was being physically abused. On Oct. 11, police found Eric beaten to death, with signs of longstanding physical abuse.

Paulding County Investigator Ashley Henson said it was the “worst case of child abuse ever seen.” Securing and examining him, and other children, by a third party could have saved lives.

Senate Bill 350 – privatization – doesn’t address DFCS’s primary problem. House Bill 923 – a Child Fatality Review Panel – applies after children are dead.

A task force should have immediately been established after the “Battered Child Syndrome” death of Eric Forbes and subsequent deaths came to light, but better late than never.

May the new empanelled commission be well-staffed, with discerning eyes, proper insight and vision.

I personally request that their recommendations will include a mandatory referral of children to pediatricians for medical examination for children about whom suspected abuse has been thrice-reported. Let’s prevent child deaths, not only review them post-mortem.

Melody T. McCloud, M.D.

Ob-gyn, author and the founder/medical director of Atlanta Women’s Health Care. @DrMelodyMcCloud.

RN 04-10-14