Children's shelter shuts down

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A child advocacy center in Augusta is closing its emergency shelter for abused children because the state will not refer enough children there to keep it open.

But the center is "hopefully optimistic" the state of Georgia still will find safe placements for the children elsewhere, the center's director said.

The board of Child Enrichment Inc. voted Friday to no longer take children into its emergency shelter and to find placements for the 11 children currently there. The 11 full-time staff members also will be let go after the children leave, board President W. Cameron Nixon said.

"There's been a shift in the way the state is treating abandoned, abused and neglected children, and they're no longer being placed in shelters," he said.

The move comes after months of efforts by the center and its board to convince the state of the shelter's worth and to get a clear sense of why it was no longer being used. The state instead will rely on foster homes, placing children with relatives, and diversion, which could mean giving parents more resources rather than taking a neglected child, Child Enrichment Executive Director Dan Hillman said.

"As providers for children alleged to have been abused or neglected, we know that removing them from the home is traumatic for them," he said. "There is common sense to what the state is saying. So we're not going to be critical of it. We're hopefully optimistic."

But the decision was difficult for those involved in the shelter, which has been taking in children since 1978.

"Part of me thinks, well, we've lost a great service for those abused and abandoned kids that need specialized care, 24-hour care," Mr. Hillman said. "But I don't know. If the state is right, shelters aren't needed as they once were."

However, it would be difficult for a foster home or relative to provide the immediate access to the range of services the shelter provides, Mr. Hillman conceded.

A call Friday to the Georgia Department of Human Resources seeking comment was not returned.

Of the 11 children at the center, at least six, and perhaps all, of them will be placed with relatives, Mr. Hillman said. The center still will operate the Court Appointed Special Advocates and Child Advocacy Center programs, which actually make up 97 percent of the services it provides children, Mr. Nixon said.

"The shelter had become a relatively small part of our operation because of the state changes," he said.

The shelter had received only 10 children through the first six months of the fiscal year compared to 49 the year before, Mr. Hillman said. Still, the center had kept the shelter staffed, at a loss of about $44,000 so far this year, as it tried to work out an arrangement with the state, Mr. Nixon said.

"It became financially untenable to keep the shelter open with the number of children that were coming through," he said. "It's an emotional issue. The shelter has been part of this community for 30 years. So we certainly didn't go into this (decision) lightly at all."

Reach Tom Corwin at (706) 823-3213 or tom.corwin@augustachronicle.com.

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Ron Martin CPP
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Ron Martin CPP 01/27/07 - 01:36 pm
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How about expanding the area

How about expanding the area from which children can be placed.

As a former CASA I would hate this service to close. It is an important resource.

butterflygina
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butterflygina 01/27/07 - 04:04 pm
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With the well known fact that

With the well known fact that there are not enough foster parents/homes, where does the state think these children are going to end up? And what family member that was willing and eligible (you know their background has to essentialy spotless) would allow a child from their family to be in a foster home/shelter? The people in the community (foster parents and family members) willing to take these kids in does not exist. I fear more harm than good is going to come out of this. And sadly, children who have already been victimized will suffer the consequences of this decision.

Silas DoGood
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Silas DoGood 01/27/07 - 04:39 pm
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I guess DHR/DFCS thinks that

I guess DHR/DFCS thinks that a one size fits all model for children and all of their families fits?

It is a sad day in Georgia when resources are no longer used and when the Foster parent system(who are my heroes) is once again overburdened with more work.

Our state flag (at our home) will fly at half mass for this fallen hero organization who served without thanks. I am truly grateful for all that each employee has done for our children, both past and present.

Mj5love
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Mj5love 01/27/07 - 05:15 pm
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Hi Ron, I am a CASA here in

Hi Ron,
I am a CASA here in Atlanta I agree with you you CASA's are very special people. Thank you for all you do for children.

webdesigns
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webdesigns 01/27/07 - 07:45 pm
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I was once a house parent for

I was once a house parent for Child Enrichment. This is a very sad event for Augusta Georgia. I can't help but wonder if the changes made from house parents to hourly employees took away from the purpose. I think the home environment was the most sucessful way to run the shelter.

asoldier
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asoldier 01/27/07 - 08:24 pm
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I think it is a sad day for

I think it is a sad day for the community and an even sadder day for the children who are now being placed at risk. The Foster care system works when it is utilized( God bless you Foster parents out there) but sometimes it is not an option and to leave these kids in a home where they have been abused or neglected is a crime. To place them with a realitive is not always a good option either. A blood tie to a child does not make one a good provider. In many cases (not all) the apple does not fall far from the tree. God Bless the children. I will keep them in my prayers as should we all they are going to need it.

joannwest
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joannwest 01/28/07 - 01:46 pm
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How do you become a foster

How do you become a foster parent?

TruthJusticeFaithHope
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TruthJusticeFaithHope 01/28/07 - 02:20 pm
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Your local DFCS office can

Your local DFCS office can provide you the information on being a Foster Parent.

mable8
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mable8 01/28/07 - 03:42 pm
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The foster care in GA and SC

The foster care in GA and SC is deplorable; the children's shelters are a NECESSARY AND NEEDED ASSET. It's all about the money, folks. The people in Atlanta and Colulmbia haven't a clue as to what child abuse truly is. Neither State provides adequate or appropriate care to those children in need; returning abused children to the family of origin is just plain stupid. So the State will provide more resources to the offending parent? What are the plans to insure that the resources will be used appropriately? The shelters are necessary for temporary placement until a full investigation and the first court hearing is held. At that point, DHR/DFCS should be able to provide the Judge the information regarding future care of the child and an APPROVED PLAN OF ACTION for that care. One plan of action should include character building for the parents; poor character is what got them into a bad situation in the first place and it is what they are teaching their children. Continue as it is today, in 10 years half of those children will become guests of their respective States and wear the prison blues. God help the children of today.

Raindance
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Raindance 01/29/07 - 09:26 am
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I'll bet if Augusta decided

I'll bet if Augusta decided to close an animal shelter, money would come pouring in from all over the place...

Those poor children.

caringmom
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caringmom 01/29/07 - 10:46 am
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What a terrible loss.

What a terrible loss. Shelters were started by people like me, volunteers in the community that care about kids and want to be sure that the abused and damaged children in my county have a safe place to go. Look at what happened in Atlanta when caseworkers and supervisors instituted the policy forced on them by the state DHR Commissioner and DFACS Director, a two-year-old girl was sent to live with her Mom, and was beaten to death. Let's not blame the county DFACS staff for this, that girl's death was a direct result of state policy that is designed to ensure the state can spend less money paying for abused children. We need a full range of in-home and out-of-home private service providers to care for the kids in the state system, and if we don't as a community start demanding this from our elected officials, more shelters are going to be closed and more kids are going to be placed at risk.

fab5
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fab5 01/29/07 - 01:54 pm
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Here's a idea, how about

Here's a idea, how about opening another home for the children. There is a solution that is do-able. Location, some of these business that had closed their door, like the former Shoney's/Denny's on Gordan Hwy. Restrooms, kitchen, floor space. The old Winn Dixie, any of them that what not been put to use. Come people, the children are really future, laid a great foundation, where others(parents) may have fallen, pick-up the baton and march on-ward. a- parent view

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