Georgia officials push back on Ossoff’s foster care narrative

(The Center Square) — Georgia officials are pushing back on claims the state has failed the foster children in its care, firing off a letter to a pair of senators leading an inquiry into the state’s system.

In a letter to U.S. Sens. Jon Ossoff, D-Georgia, and Marsha Blackburn, R-Tennessee, the Consovoy McCarthy law firm wrote that “any investigative effort” must be “fair, complete, and fact-based.”

The letter, released by the Georgia Division of Family & Children Services, follows a National Center for Missing and Exploited Children finding Ossoff released indicating 1,790 children in the agency’s care were reported missing between 2018 and 2022. Ossoff followed up the release with a Monday hearing featuring testimony from Georgia judges.

State officials said the subcommittee did not share information in its request to the center or the information it obtained, and officials could not “understand or respond to this analysis.”

“It is not clear whether the numbers the Chairman shared with the press account for children who were recovered or children who aged out and refused to sign back into foster care (even though they were located),” according to the letter.

In February, Ossoff and Blackburn sent a letter to the state’s DFCS questioning the agency’s ability to protect children. They launched an inquiry into reports that Georgia officials have failed the children in their care.

In their letter to the senators, Georgia officials point to a recent U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Inspector General report that they said found Georgia’s rate of foster was lower than many states, including neighboring Alabama, Tennessee and South Carolina.

Georgia had 10,464 foster children in August 2023, down from a high of 14,202 in May 2018. The numbers have remained constant since a low of 10,432 in January 2022, officials said.

“The Subcommittee looks forward to interviewing relevant DFCS personnel about [Monday’s] testimony by Georgia judges that DFCS proposed to keep children with special needs in juvenile detention facilities,” an Ossoff spokesperson told The Center Square via email.

“The Subcommittee has been in regular contact with Georgia DFCS throughout this investigation and will seek Georgia DFCS’ continued cooperation,” the spokesperson added. “The Subcommittee’s investigation is ongoing, and the essential question is whether children in foster care are protected from abuse and neglect given serious concerns raised for years by watchdogs, parents, and the press.”

While the state purportedly spent $28 million last year to house children in hotels, sometimes for months, DFCS officials say the state rarely uses hotels for foster children.

“The misstatements, omissions, and failure of the Subcommittee to request relevant information or responses from the Department in advance of its publicized hearings and press conferences leave the unfortunate impression that the goals of this investigation are political,” the letter read. “That impression is heightened by the fact that—despite the repeated claim that this is a ‘bipartisan investigation’—the investigation into policies and practices of the Georgia foster care system has been run exclusively by majority staff.”

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By T.A. DeFeo | The Center Square contributor

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