Editorial

4/23/2013

State needs to better secure children's safety

The state might want to reevaluate where it's putting its resources following the disclosure of the estimated number of children who died in 2012 whose families or households had been, at one time or other, under the scrutiny of the Georgia Department of Family and Children Services. All totaled, some 152 died, including a teenager who starved to death in Smyrna.

The question is, could these children have been better protected by the state? And if so, who's fault is it that they weren't better protected?

Officials with the Department of Family and Children Services have lamented that the agency lacks the staff to keep up with all the investigations that come their way and the number of active cases on the books.

Like every state agency, it has suffered cuts in a revenue-short economy. It just doesn't have the manpower needed to keep up with the afflictions of society, those who work with problem families say.

This is where the state can help, though it should not approach it with an exclusive motivation to find fault with the department. Blaming the agency for just poor leadership might make the state feel better, but it would not paint the true picture. Consequently, more children would be at risk and perhaps die.

Inept leadership or flawed policies can be resolved easily enough. Simply replace the leaders and the policies. On the other hand, if workers with protective child services have too many cases to handle effectively, then the state should do more than just debate the issue or merely think about hiring more field agents. It should hire them at once.

For the state to fail just one child is cause enough for alarm. Failing 152 is a call for immediate study and action.