One of the state’s biggest advocates of privatizing foster care has filed a new bill aimed at the state’s child welfare system.
State Sen. Renee Unterman’s bill would allow a struggling parent to give temporary custody to a friend or acquaintance for up to one year. Active members of the military could do the same for more than a year.
In both cases, parents could sidestep the state Division of Family and Children Services, or DFCS, which oversees the state’s foster care system. Nonprofits and faith-based groups would provide the crisis intervention and counseling to the families.As heard on the radio
“There really is no need to get in touch with DFCS unless there’s a history of child abuse and neglect,” Unterman says. “But these are kind of pre-foster care problems. We’re trying to prevent intervention with DFCS.”
Last year Unterman was one of the biggest advocates of privatizing state services like foster care and adoption. A bill to do that seemed poised for passage with Gov. Nathan Deal’s initial endorsement, but it ultimately failed in the final hours of the session.
Unterman dismissed comparisons to that effort, saying this is aimed at families that hit a stroke of bad luck, like a job loss, addiction or illness.
“Some of these families and mothers in particular have not done anything wrong, but at some point there may be a breaking point,” she says. “And there really is no need to get in touch with DFCS. They just need some extra assistance.”
Unterman’s bill will likely be formally introduced in the Senate when it reconvenes next week.