Just about everyone knows the foster care system exists, but most people do not realize all the details about the children and families involved in foster care or how the system serves those who are a part of it. As a result, many people have questions about Georgia’s foster care system but may not know where to find the answers.
To provide some clarity, we’re answering common questions about Georgia’s foster care system and helping create a better understanding of how our state serves the children and families who need it the most.
What Is Foster Care?
Before we dive into any stats about foster care in Georgia, let’s first look at what foster care is. Foster care is meant to be a temporary place of safety and stability for children who have been removed from their family homes. Foster care is not intended to be permanent — although foster families can adopt their foster child(ren) under certain conditions. Instead, it is meant to be an as-needed solution that helps families resolve issues and gives them a chance to create a safe environment for their children to return to. The ultimate goal for families in the foster care system is reunification. Foster care is simply an aid to help families put their child’s safety first while they reach that goal.
Who determines if foster care is needed?
The agents who work for the Georgia Department of Human Services (DHS), Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS) are responsible for analyzing a home and determining whether it is currently an unsafe environment for the child or children.
The process of determining whether a child needs foster care can be complex and requires thorough investigation, but the general steps usually go as follows:
- DFCS receives a child abuse report from a regular civilian or a mandated reporter.
- An agent investigates the family and home, assessing the living conditions, interviewing the child, interviewing family members, and examining the evidence of the investigation.
- If it is determined that there are safety risks for the child or children in the home, DFCS will assign the child to a relative’s home (if deemed safe) or to a foster home and will transport them there that day.
How can DFCS become aware of a home to investigate?
There are several ways a family can wind up on DFCS’s radar, but it usually involves a report provided by either a civilian or a mandated reporter.
Examples of a civilian:
- Family member
Examples of a mandated reporter:
- Social worker
- Teacher or other school personnel
- Doctor or other medical professional
- Therapist or other mental health professional
- Daycare provider
- Law enforcement officer
Civilians or mandated reporters can report a family to DFCS for a number of reasons, including:
- Signs or accounts of neglect or malnutrition
- Signs or accounts of physical abuse
- Signs or accounts of sexual abuse
If you suspect a child is experiencing abuse, neglect, or maltreatment at home, you can call the DFCS Child Protective Services toll-free at 1-855-422-4453 (1-855-GA-CHILD). Reports can be made 24/7.
If it is a medical emergency, or if the child is in immediate danger, call 911.
How Many Children Are in Foster Care in Georgia?
There were 11,390 children in Georgia’s foster care system in 2022, more than an 8% increase from the 10,504 children in the system in 2021.
Across all 50 states in 2022, the average number of children in foster care was 7,624 (rounded), meaning Georgia’s amount was nearly 50% higher than the national average.
How long do children tend to stay in foster care?
According to the national reporting from 2021, children tend to stay in foster care for an average of roughly 22 months. Nearly 66% of children stay for less than two years before they are reunited with their families, and only 6% have been reported to stay for more than five years.
How Many Foster Families Are There in Georgia?
In 2022, 4,744 families became licensed foster homes or maintained their status as licensed foster homes for children in the foster care system. The count in 2021 was 4,650, meaning we only saw a 2% increase between these two years.
While 4,744 is a good start for the number of foster homes in our state, Georgia is in serious need of more foster homes to adequately care for children throughout the state who need safe, stable, temporary environments. At the current rate, Georgia’s foster families are taking care of an average of two to three foster children at a time.
You can help Georgia’s children find safety and comfort as their families work toward reunification by becoming a foster parent with Generational Child Care.
At Generational Child Care, we offer continuous support and the resources you need to become a foster parent in Georgia. Georgia’s youth need loving homes, and we invite you to join other foster parents in the mission to love and support them with a safe place to live. Discover more about becoming a foster parent in Georgia by contacting 478-477-1289.