Sunday, January 20, 2008

Governor consolidates child protection agencies

Governor consolidates child protection agencies



01/18/08By Walter C. Jones, Morris News Service




ATLANTA — Gov. Sonny Perdue combined four small agencies dealing with children into two Thursday, predicting that the half-million dollars administrative savings and reduced red tape would broaden their reach without costing taxpayers more.
"Too often the work of these agencies have not been sufficiently coordinated. I guess the political buzz word: They have been siloed, and they have not had the proper level of communication and integration," he said.
During the last quarter-century, legislators created the four agencies separately to address different problems, and some of their duties now overlap.
For example, the Children’s Trust Fund Commission created in the 1980s is designed to channel money to local agencies concerned with preventing the neglect and abuse of young children, while the Children and Youth Coordinating Council established 10 years later plays a similar role for teens to curb delinquency and pregnancy. Those will be merged into the Governor’s Office for Children and Families.
Also, the Office of Child Advocate will assume the responsibilities of the Office of Child Fatality Review. Both investigate cases of death or injury to develop policies for prevention.
The two resulting agencies will be located in the same office.
Tom Rawlings, a former juvenile judge who has served as the State Child advocate for the last seven months, noted that the administrative structure can be as critical to results as funding.
"It’s not enough to raise issues and find problems," he said, adding that cooperation on solutions was as important.
The mergers will save roughly $500,000 in administrative expenses, Perdue predicted, and reduce bureaucratic hurdles that frustrate both families and social workers.
"We think it’s a good Republican solution," he said. Jen Bennecke, executive director of the newly created Office for Children, was an aide to first lady Mary Perdue for five years and oversaw her efforts to coordinate unofficially the work of state agencies dealing with children.
"We really feel that families are best served in the communities," Bennecke said. "It’s not all about state funding and state dollars."