CAGLE: DON’T FORCE KIDS INTO GOVERNMENT CUSTODY, Supporting and Strengthening Families Act Allows Families, Churches, and Communities to Step Up and Help

January 18, 2018

Today, Lt. Governor Casey Cagle called on the Georgia General Assembly to immediately pass child welfare legislation. In addition to comprehensively reforming our state’s adoption laws, the measure before the legislature also importantly includes the Supporting and Strengthening Families Act.

Under current Georgia law, if parents face a personal or unexpected crisis such as job loss, eviction, a life-threatening disease, domestic violence, or addiction, they have two choices when it comes to their children. On one hand, they can do their best to take care of their children in an environment that may be unsafe and unhealthy. On the other hand, they can ask for help and risk losing their children temporarily or permanently when DFCS and the government intervene.

The Supporting and Strengthening Families Act bridges this gap by allowing parents in crisis to give temporary legal guardianship of their children to a friend, family member, or other trusted adult for up to one year. This keeps our children out of the state foster care system and assures parents that their children will be safe and loved while they address the difficulties and challenges occurring in their own lives.  

“Every day, we hear from pastors and faith based adoption agencies across Georgia who desperately need the power to assist families in their communities to keep our kids out of DFCS custody. There is no reason to unnecessarily use the heavy hand of government to force children into the custody of strangers when it could easily be avoided. This legislation gives parents another option and helps meet the desperate need for loving homes for their children by allowing family members, churches, community organizations, and friends to step up and prevent more children from entering the state foster care system,” said Lt. Governor Cagle. 

“Our foster parents do a huge service for this state, but there are simply not enough foster parents to help the thousands of children in need. Government should not be the first and only lifeline for kids in crisis when there are adults who know and love them and are willing stand in the gap and help their families during times of need,” Cagle continued.

Since 2003, Safe Families has helped over 35,000 children in 27 states, and similar legislation to HB 159 has been enacted in 14 of these states. Of these cases, over 90% are successfully returned home to their families within an average of 45 days and never enter foster care. Since the program is privately funded, no state tax dollars are used to achieve these results. Nationally, nearly 440,000 children are living in foster care at an average annual cost of over $25,000 per child. Once a child enters foster care, they will likely spend more than a year away from their families and have roughly a 50/50 chance of ever returning home.