Deal Names New Child Advocate Head

Gov. Nathan Deal has appointed a new leader for the Georgia Office of the Child Advocate.

The governor Wednesday named Ashley Wilcott to head the agency that watches over the child welfare system.As heard on the radio

Wilcott is a child welfare law specialist with her own private practice and has two decades of experience in the juvenile justice system. She’s also serves as special assistant attorney general representing the Department of Human Resources, as well as Rockdale and Dawson counties’ Department of Family and Children Services.

Wilcott was appointed DeKalb County juvenile court judge pro tem and previously served as the Fulton County juvenile court judge pro tem.

“We think that she can make the office more effective and that she’ll be very proactive,” said Deal spokesperson Brian Robinson. “We think legislators and stakeholders will be very pleased with the work she produces.”

Wilcott replaces Tonya Boga, who resigned in November amid scrutiny over the Division of Family and Children Service’s handling of two child deaths. Deal has said there was no connection, but has also promised to expand the department with more funding and hires, though he said more concrete details of his plan will be revealed after the state legislature reconvenes this month. 

Democratic State Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver of Decatur, who’s publicly questioned the relevancy of the Child Advocate, applauded Deal’s choice, saying Wilcott could bring “real value to the table” as the agency’s head. However, Oliver says she still plans to move forward with a bill to strip the office of its oversight of the board that investigates child deaths.

“What has to happen next – and this will be the challenge for Ashley and the governor as they plot the course – is what’s the real purpose of this agency? What is the best value the office of Child Advocate can bring on behalf of the children of Georgia and on behalf of the taxpayers?,” Oliver said.

Wilcott takes over in February.