State Rep: reorganize or eliminate Office of the Child Advocate

11:50 AM, Dec 6, 2013   |    comments
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DECATUR, Ga. -- The deaths of Emani Moss and Eric Forbes have served as a harsh wake-up call to lawmakers, shining a light on deep flaws in the state's child protection system. 

Both children had a history with DFCS; the agency had investigated and documented previous reports of abuse. Yet both children were ultimately killed, allegedly at the hands of their parents.

In the wake of their deaths, state lawmakers have promised major change to the system. One state representative is already preparing to file the first of several expected bills to be reviewed next session.

State Representative Mary Margaret Oliver (D-Decatur) is currently drafting a bill that would change the way child deaths are tracked in Georgia. Under her proposal, the Fatality Review Commission would fall under public safety, rather than the Office of the Child Advocate, as is the current structure.

Oliver says the change would allow for better resources to track deaths and perform forensic analysis to create a uniform definition of a "preventable child death."

"We're not collecting all the information," Oliver said. "We're not reviewing all the deaths that should be reviewed in order to have a real understanding, a comprehensive understanding."

"There is a lack of scientific rigor to understanding the data. There is a lack of consistency of definitions in the 159 counties as to what is a child death that must be reviewed."

Oliver also believes major changes are in order for the Office of the Child Advocate, the agency created to watch over DFCS.

"It's my view that unless we strengthen, reorganize or refocus the office, we should do away with it," she said. "In today's budget climate, offices have to produce product. If there's no change, I'm not sure it continues to have value."

Earlier this week, the officer's director, Tonya Boga, stepped down with only a few weeks left in her three-year term. Governor Deal's office has appointed an interim director to serve until a new appointment is made.

Oliver tells 11Alive's Blayne Alexander she plans to pre-file the bill as early as next week.

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