DFCS Leader: “If You’re Part of the Problem, Your Days Are Done”

June 13th, 2014 by 3 Comments

By Mike Klein

Governor Nathan Deal’s new hand-picked executive-in-charge of child protective services says, “If you’re part of the bureaucracy and you’re part of the problem, your days are done.”

MIKE KLEIN Editor, Georgia Public Policy Foundation
MIKE KLEIN
Editor, Georgia Public Policy Foundation

Thursday afternoon the Governor’s Office said Bobby Cagle will become interim director at the Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS), effective Monday. Cagle moves from the Department of Early Care and Learning where he has been commissioner since his appointment by Deal in 2010.

Cagle told the Georgia Public Policy Foundation his assignment will be to evaluate everything and make any recommendation.

“I intend to go in with a very critical lens, look at all that we have going on, the people that are in place and my charge is clear from the Governor, assure safety and do what’s needed,” Cagle said Thursday. “That includes changing policies, changing personnel, asking for additional resources, anything that needs to be done, he has cleared the way for me to do it.”

Child protective service has been a division inside the state Department of Human Services. As soon as next year it could become a stand-alone agency, a change that would require legislation. “I guess that’s a potential,” Cagle said. “Rather than speculate what I would say is the Governor has told me to do whatever it takes to assure that the department is running appropriately. If that includes the creation of a (new child protective services agency) I will recommend that.”

GOVERNOR NATHAN DEAL
GOVERNOR
NATHAN DEAL

Georgia child protective service has long suffered from, and some would say has earned, its reputation for inefficiency and failure to protect children.  Success does not make headlines; success does not end up on the evening news. The deaths of two children last year who were in state protective services further ruptured faith in policies and personnel, and generated massive negative headlines about Georgia child care.

What a difference six months makes.  In January Deal announced that his administration would fund 500 new caseworkers over three years. In March he created a child welfare reform council. Thursday Deal installed Cagle and new interim deputy director Katie Jo Ballard to manage DFCS and he ordered that DFCS report directly to his office, bypassing the Department of Human Services senior administration.

“What you can say is decision making has moved very close to the Governor,” Cagle said when we spoke at Emory Law School where he attended the second meeting of the Governor’s child welfare reform council on Thursday. Throughout our discussion Cagle frequently used the word urgency, specifically, “elevate the urgency around the idea that children are safe.” Safety will become more important than family reunification which has been a long-standing policy.

BOBBY CAGLE
BOBBY CAGLE

Cagle started his career as a North Carolina child protective services worker. Later he became a small county child protective services director and then deputy director in the North Carolina’s largest county. Prior to the DECAL assignment Cagle spent more than five years in Georgia child protective services. This move returns him to a public sector that he already understands.

“Child welfare has had some changes nationally over the years but the essential basics of child welfare have not changed,” Cagle said. “It is a matter of assuring that you have good contact with the public, getting those reports in, assuring that they are assigned out timely and that you’ve got an investigator talking to the children, talking to the family, assuring immediate safety and then beginning to work on the problems families may have that endanger children long-term. The essentials of that have not changed and I don’t suspect will. The approaches to how we work on family dynamics, how we do investigations, those have changed somewhat.”

Child protective services is about as complex as you can get in the public sector. Caseworkers interact with families who always are in some or extreme crisis. The lines between truth and fiction are not always clear and it is also true that young children often want to protect the adults who care for them even when those same adults are the ones who neglect, abuse or mistreat them. Caseworkers are not highly compensated and their burnout rate is significant.

So, there is nothing simple about any of this. A serious shortage of foster care homes and how to recruit and keep good foster parents is near the top of the urgent priorities list. “There are many groups that have worked on this for decades,” Cagle said. “We’ll continue to plug away, use the best knowledge that there is and the resources of this department to solve that issue.”

Cagle has another message for DFCS personnel. “If you’re there, you’re committed to children, you’re committed to doing the right things for children and families, then you’re safe.”

Additional Resource:

One Little Boy, One Little Girl, Two Unspeakable Murders

3 thoughts on “DFCS Leader: “If You’re Part of the Problem, Your Days Are Done”

  1. OK if Bobby Cagle is in charge of the muscogee county DFCS then why isn’t he monitoring it and making sure that it is helping people? The employees at the county office no nothing, and do nothing to help those in need. The phone number that is given to call for assistance and/or questions, i. e. 877.423.4746 is a joke. No one ever answers the line. If this is the best he can do, then he is just as bad, and useless, as those who are in their employ.. Hey Bobby Cagle, wake up and do something.

  2. I live in Henry County where the 2 yr old was murdered in DFCS custody. At the time DFCS had my 1 yr old granddaughter and was keeping her from me. I already had her brother but DFCS refused to place her with me. NO reason given. THEY kept her for 7-8 months. I had monitored visits 2 times a month at McDonald’s. She was never allowed in my home. She lived with me the 1st 7 months of her life but when my daughter moved out and they took her from my daughter, they refused to even call me to get her after my daughter begged them not to place her with strangers. They proceeded to do this anyway. I’M glad she wasn’t murdered. AFTER 7-8 months of fighting DFCS and spending in excess of 10 to 15 thousand dollars their decision was overridden by the same judge in juvenile court, who allowed this to go on and on and on and the very same judge who placed the brother with me over a year before. THERE Is DEFINATELY SOMETHING WRONG WITH THE system. NOW I’m fighting a battle because the child support they take from my daughter is going to the STATE not to me or my granddaughter which is amazing. I can’t even get DFCS or anyone to correct the issue so my granddaughter gets not abd the state gets her child support. How is THAT FOR JUSTICE FIR THE CHILD??????? THIS is a current and ongoing issue. I have no help. I’m raising four grandchildren on disability by myself and DFCS is stealing my granddaughters child support.

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