ifeminists.com: A central gathering place and information center for individualist feminists.   -- explore the new feminism --
introduction | interaction | information

ifeminists.com > introduction > editorials

Time To Look At DFCS Differently
November 10, 2004
by Tony Zizza

A recent article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution newspaper correctly points out that "Caseworker turnover" has sent an alarm throughout Georgia's Division of Family and Children Services.

Here we go again.

You don't have to be a public policy wonk to understand a limited number of caseworkers are attempting to properly work an unlimited number of alleged cases of child abuse. Additionally, you don't have to be a genius to realize children are our most precious human resource on the planet. We are all "against" child abuse. No one is "for it."

However, it is time to look at DFCS differently. With a set of fresh eyes. With a willingness to tackle the biggest problem facing DFCS. To do this, you just have to look at the number of cases of alleged child abuse that are substantiated - versus the number of cases that are screened out or deemed unsubstantiated.

I live in Douglas County. According to Georgia's Child Protection Services State Fiscal Year 2002 report for Douglas County, out of the 1,469 reports of alleged child abuse - 532 reports were screened out. A total of 661 cases were closed as unsubstantiated. There were 276 substantiated cases of alleged child abuse. But we're supposed to believe child abuse is rampant.

I am aware of no one, I repeat no one, who at a governmental level is trying to reform DFCS by doing something serious about the huge number of false allegations of child abuse essentially filed by both adults and children.

If Department of Human Resources Commissioner B.J. Walker and Clayton County caseworker Rita Goodman want to see less caseworkers quit and caseloads where they ought to be, than it is high time for those who make false accusations to be punished.

Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter Craig Schneider says a lot in his article, "Caseworker turnover alarms agency", when he writes, "In some instances, caseworkers cut short an investigation when it becomes apparent that a family needs some counseling or health advice."

But those accused of child abuse the investigator knows are innocent, must contact the references the accused has provided ASAP to let them know a case of alleged child abuse is no longer being pursued. Why should the accused have to keep asking their references (usually, loved ones or co-workers) if the investigator has called? What must the references be thinking?

We truly need a statewide discussion on the policies and procedures that DFCS caseworkers follow. With the huge number of screened out and unsubstantiated cases in every Georgia county, does anyone have the heart to think about how many people have seen their individual lives and families ruined because of false allegations of child abuse? Better to be safe than sorry doesn't cut it.

So, here's the sad part of the DFCS puzzle that everyone is afraid to address: a child protection system that does nothing to punish those who make false allegations of child abuse bears some responsibility when families split up over these same false allegations of child abuse.

There should be stiff penalties in the form of jail time for both adults and children who knowingly initiate a DFCS investigation that should never be initiated at all. Only then will we finally be able to look at DFCS differently. Surely, a child protection system that only protects accusers at the expense of the accused, is a system that must be completely reformed if justice is to flourish in a civil society.

Zizza is a freelance writer based in the Atlanta area who writes frequently about public policy and children's issues. Email comments to him at: tz777@yahoo.com

ifeminists.com > home | introduction | interaction | information | about

ifeminists.com is edited by Wendy McElroy; it is made possible by support from The Independent Institute and members like you.