Expert weighs in on Bartow, Georgia child abuse
by Mark Andrews
Aug 18, 2013 | 2822 views | 0 0 comments | 48 48 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Child advocate Andy Barclay speaks at the Bartow County Collaborative monthly meeting Friday, held at First Presbyterian Church of Cartersville. MARK ANDREWS/The Daily Tribune News
Child advocate Andy Barclay speaks at the Bartow County Collaborative monthly meeting Friday, held at First Presbyterian Church of Cartersville. MARK ANDREWS/The Daily Tribune News
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Child advocate Andy Barclay, currently of the organization Fostering Court Improvement and co-founder of Barton Child Law & Policy Clinic, spoke to the Bartow County Collaborative on Friday at First Presbyterian Church of Cartersville regarding child abuse and neglect statistics in Bartow County and across Georgia. A statistician, Barclay works as a volunteer to visit communities and show, often through the use of maps and charts, concentrated areas where there have been high numbers of reports and investigations of child abuse or neglect as well as where there have been children removed from their homes based on abuse or neglect and placed into foster care.

“We’re trying to keep children with their families at home and safe, but often these children are coming from very risky neighborhoods, so now a lot of our attention turns to the neighborhood and drawing a risk out of the neighborhood and identifying that risk,” Barclay said.

He said the maps are complex and cannot be made public online due to privacy concerns as the maps could identify individual households that have either been investigated for abuse or neglect or had children removed. Barclay, however, showed general locations that were in the close proximity of local churches that showed high concentrations of investigations around some neighborhoods and apartment complexes near Faith United Methodist Church and areas of Atco surrounding Atco Baptist Church.

North of First Presbyterian, Barclay reported a concentrated area of confirmed abuse or neglect as well as investigation activity. He said in Adairsville there was a significant amount of children, based on its population, being placed in foster care due to abuse or neglect.

Barclay also explained the process and goals of Fostering Court Improvement, which according to its website, www.fosteringcourtimprovement.org, “... is committed to provide every state in the nation a platform of shared data from which the Dependency Court and the Child Welfare Agency can manage systems expressly designed to improve outcomes for children and families.”

He said the state is working to develop a statewide hotline to report child abuse or neglect. The current system includes calling the local Department of Family and Children Services, which screens calls to determine how often calls are made regarding a potential abuse or neglect situation.

“Georgia gets about 100,000 of these calls each year and we screen in, I think, it’s about 50 percent ...” Barclay said. “From there, that’s where the differential part steps in [that] we’re working on instead of just investigating every single one of those [calls], which puts a tremendous burdon on DFACS and doesn’t necessarily protect children ...”

In turn, Barclay said, the state works toward family intervention to aid with reports of abuse and neglect, which he said can be influenced by factors such as poverty and geographical location, that leads to placing children in foster care.

He said around 2003 there was a spike statewide in children being placed in foster care, which he said the outbreak use of the drug methamphetamine likely was a contributing factor to child abuse and neglect, resulting in children being removed from the home.

“In 2004, Bartow was still on its way up and Bartow has not dropped that much in terms of the number of children in foster care,” Barclay said. “There’s a lot that goes into that and right now you’re at 169 children in care with 124 removals per year ...

“The safety has improved dramatically [in the current process],” Barclay said “... In 2004 when we were having this crisis of 15,000 children [in foster care] each year [in Georgia] and thousands and thousands of investigations, we were processing children through the system but not doing a good job protecting them and at that time we had 68 children who were reported and substantiated by DFACS as ‘maltreated in care’ who six months were ‘revictimized’ and that’s what we want to look for, that’s our primary safety measure is looking at the ‘revictimization’ after we’ve got a report and we’ve established there is a victim, how do we go and protect him.”