ATLANTA — Georgia Division of Family and Children Services investigators have been ordered to work at least eight hours of weekly overtime until the agency eliminates a backlog of child protective services investigations.
More than 3,300 Georgia child protective services investigations are overdue and the number accounts for nearly half of the state’s current caseload, Georgia Department of Human Services spokeswoman Ravae Graham said in statement Tuesday.
Investigations into child protective services complaints are supposed to be completed within 45 days, Graham said. Information on how long the oldest cases have been backlogged wasn’t immediately available Tuesday. DFCS Interim Director Bobby Cagle said he considers each case a potential risk for vulnerable children.
Cagle is looking to address 95 percent of the overdue investigations by July 31, Graham said. Investigators are expected to give priority to cases involving young children, abuse allegations and investigations involving families that have had multiple prior encounters with the Division of Family and Children Services.
Reports of child abuse and neglect have risen over the past year from an average of about 6,600 reports to 8,400 reports monthly, Graham said. Deal authorized funding for an additional 500 DFCS caseworkers over the next three years. The Division of Family and Children Services has hired 175 so far, Graham said. At the beginning of June, the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services was staffed with 1,633 social service caseworkers who handle child protective services investigations, Graham said.
Cagle, the former commissioner of the Department of Early Care and Learning, began serving as DFCS interim director June 16. Shortly after Gov. Nathan Deal announced Cagle’s appointment to the post, he said improving the agency’s response to child safety investigations would be his first priority. Deal also ordered the DFCS director to now report directly to his office, instead of reporting to the head of the Georgia Department of Human Services.
The leadership change at the DFCS and reconfiguring the director’s role was part of a broader effort to improve delivery and oversight of social services after the high-profile deaths of children whose families had some involvement with Georgia child-welfare agencies.
Cagle is conducting a comprehensive review of the Division of Family and Children Services, which could result in more changes meant to improve child safety, Graham said. The Georgia Child Welfare Reform Council is also expected to present more recommendations to state officials this fall, Deal said earlier this month.