ATLANTA – Citing significant improvements in Georgia’s child welfare practice, the state Department of Human Services (DHS) and plaintiffs filed a joint motion in federal court on Wednesday to adopt an exit plan in the Kenny A. v. Deal case.

“Today’s court filing serves as a significant milestone in Georgia’s journey to become the best family and children services agency in the world,” said Bobby Cagle, director of the Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS). “The fact that we are preparing to exit Kenny A. today is testament to the hard work of our staff, who have been diligent in their efforts to improve foster care services, and the support of our state leaders who have been committed to reducing caseload sizes and strengthening Georgia’s child welfare system.”

Georgia has been operating under a consent decree for child welfare services in Fulton and DeKalb Counties since 2005. The Kenny A. consent decree is the result of a class action lawsuit filed on behalf of children in foster care in Fulton and DeKalb Counties in 2002.

Since the suit was settled, Georgia has been working to improve services that assure the safety and well-being of children in foster care. The state’s progress—measured through 32 separate outcomes—has been monitored in the U.S. District Court in the Northern District of Georgia.

In a recent report, Children’s Rights commended Georgia for reducing the number of times children move while in foster care, increasing regular visits between children and their biological parents, and keeping case oversight consistent. 

“Developing an exit strategy to this consent decree with the support of Plaintiffs’ counsel shows just how far we’ve come in making Georgia a place where children can be safe and families can be made stronger,” said Robyn A. Crittenden, commissioner of the Department of Human Services.  “Today, we celebrate our progress, but we will not take our foot off the gas on our path to reform or lose sight of our vision of stronger families for a stronger Georgia.”

In Wednesday’s court filing, the parties proposed the following modifications to the consent decree:

  • A plan to report a child staying overnight at a DFCS office.
  • A commitment to phase out the use of hotels as placements for children in foster care within DeKalb and Fulton Counties by June 30, 2017. 
  • Updated outcome measures that more appropriately measure and reflect the Division’s overall performance in meeting the needs of children. 
  • Establishment of a process that creates infrastructure standards to replace those found in the original Consent Decree.
  • Revision of the required “Demonstration of Compliance” to allow for the Division to exit from the Court’s supervision when all of the outcome measures are “attained.”  
  • Revision of the dispute resolution process. 

The joint motion filed on Wednesday must be approved by Judge Thomas W. Thrash, Chief Judge of the U.S. District Court for the North.