Anya Sostek was a GOVERNING correspondentE-mail: email@example.com
Child-welfare caseworkers in the state of Georgia are responsible for more than just the welfare of the state's most troubled children. They also have to keep track of the mounds of paperwork assigned to each child. For many reasons, the system is not ideal. When children move from one county to another, for example, "case managers in the new county first have to physically get their hands on the paper documents in order to research the background of the child's case," says Ari Young, spokesman for the state's Department of Family and Children Services.
But the paper headaches might soon be over. The state has signed a three-year contract to have a statewide, automated child-welfare system built. The cost of the whole system is estimated to be $40.4 million, which will be split between the state and federal governments.
The system will allow case managers from across the state to access the files of children under state supervision, from abuse or neglect allegations to recommendations that families attend counseling or parenting classes. It will also be set up to monitor changes in a child's file and "red-flag" repeated violations among parents and caregivers. "If a person's been referred more than one time for suspected abuse or suspected neglect, these things will become more obvious," says Young.
The state plans to run pilot projects with the system in late 2006 or early 2007 in Douglas County. By summer of 2007, the state hopes to deploy the system statewide.