11Alive Staff, WXIA 7:14 p.m. EST March 4, 2014
A report given to Congress by the Georgia Department of Health and Human Services says Georgia has the sixth worst child fatality rate in the nation.
ATLANTA — A report given to Congress by the Georgia Department of Health and Human Services says Georgia has the sixth worst child fatality rate in the nation.
Only five other states –Michigan, Vermont, Texas, New Mexico and Florida — had higher fatality rates for abuse and neglect.
The year Georgia earned that ranking, 77 children died from abuse or neglect. An even newer state reportsays in 2012 maltreatment was either the direct cause or contributing factor in the deaths of 83 young lives.
11Alive’s Rebecca Lindstrom shared the child fatality numbers and heavily redacted corresponding reports she’s obtained from DFCS with Lt. Governor Casey Cagle.
“The people in the organization and the bureaucracy needs to know that there’s going to be a new way of doing business. The outcomes we’ve been receiving with abuse and neglect of kids and ultimately deaths is not acceptable,” said Cagle.
Cagle said one of the first steps should be a new transparency within the state.
“DFCS needs to step up and do the right thing. There’s nothing to hide,” said Cagle.
Ashley Willcott, the new director for the Office of the Child Advocate, passionately believes we need to protect children’s privacy. She agreed that DFCS could be more forthcoming with information.
Her office investigates complaints from families who feel DFCS isn’t doing its job. She’s reviewed eight cases in her first month on the job and says so far, DFCS is following policy.
Wilcott says she plans to use her reviews to find better ways to hold not only DFCS, but also abusive parents, mandatory reporters and the court system accountable.
“One agency unfortunately cannot fix everything, but if all the people work together, we can only raise the bar and make it better,” said Wilcott.