Georgia Permanency Roundtables | The 2008 In-depth case reviews aim at finding safe, permanent homes for all children

The Georgia Permanency Roundtable Project began in the fall of 2008. It was a collaboration of the Georgia Department of Human Services (DHS)/ Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS), Casey Family Programs and Care Solutions, Inc.

The project focused primarily on children under a federal consent decree in Fulton and DeKalb counties. The purposes of the permanency roundtable consultations were:

  • To develop a plan for each child to achieve permanency
  • To stimulate thinking and learning about pathways to permanency for these and other children in foster care
  • To identify and address barriers to permanency through creative thinking, professional development, policy change, resource development, and the engagement of system partners

Three reports have been released to evaluate the effectiveness of the Permanency Roundtable Project: the Participant Evaluation Report, the Process Evaluation Report, the 12-Month Outcome Report and the 24-Month Outcome Report:

Participant Evaluation Report

This April 2010 report shows how Casey Family Programs worked with the Georgia Department of Human Services and Care Solutions, Inc. to address permanency for nearly 500 children who had been in foster care for long periods of time.

This primarily qualitative report focuses on roundtable team member feedback obtained via on-site debriefings, evaluation forms and focused group discussions.

Several key themes emerged:

  • Training: Have more/better training and preparation, especially for case managers and master practitioners; include case managers in orientation and mock roundtables
  • Paperwork: Condense/shorten/simplify paperwork; eliminate overlap with existing forms; improve the permanency status rating scale
  • Scheduling: Improve scheduling; avoid holidays and rescheduling; hold fewer roundtables per day/week; avoid scheduling large blocks of staff time out of the office; check case manager schedules; schedule earlier in the life of a case (e.g., at start, after assessments are completed, within first two weeks, within first two months)
  • Participants: Include additional parties – legal, mental health, service providers, foster parents, relatives, advocates, previous case manager (when assignment recently changed); involve other parties without preconceived notions about the child
  • Action plans and time frames: Develop more realistic goals, recommendations and time frames; limit and/or prioritize strategies and action steps
  • Implementation and follow-up: Improve/expedite the waiver process; support case managers in action plan implementation

Many of these changes have already been incorporated in Georgia’s roundtables. We hope that report will help other jurisdictions implementing permanency roundtables.

The Process Evaluation Report

This 2008 report is a collaboration of the Georgia Department of Human Services (DHS), Care Solutions, Inc., and Casey Family Programs. It provides guidance to child welfare agencies that might benefit from the innovative permanency roundtable approach the state of Georgia is employing to find family homes for children who are considered “stuck” in the foster care system.

“Permanency Roundtable: Process Evaluation Report” shows how Casey Family Programs worked with the Georgia Department of Human Services (DHS) to address permanency for nearly 500 children who had been in foster care for long periods of time.

While most of the nearly 500 children had been in foster care for more than 24 months, about one in five had been in care for shorter periods, ranging from 13 to 18 months.

Prior to the roundtables, case managers identified 841 key barriers across all cases to permanency. It was found that nearly two-thirds of the children, a key barrier was a child issue, while for just over one-third of the children, a key barrier was a birth family issue.

The key outcome of the roundtable consultations was the development of a permanency action plan for each child, with specific steps for moving the child toward permanency. It is hoped that the successful implementation and hard work of all participants will translate into greater permanency for youth in DFCS care.

The 12-Month Outcome Report

This July 2011 research study found that the Georgia Permanency Roundtable project had been successful at finding safe and permanent families for more children and teenagers in foster care – including those who had little hope of ever securing a lifelong family.

The initial phase of the Georgia Permanency Roundtable project, which the department implemented in early 2009 in collaboration with Casey Family Programs, targeted nearly 500 cases involving children and teenagers – most from DeKalb and Fulton Counties – who were languishing in the foster care system for long periods of time.

A permanency roundtable brings together case workers, case supervisors and experts from inside and outside the department to deeply scrutinize a case and brainstorm ideas for achieving permanency for a child.

The intensive – and sometimes intense – process brings fresh perspectives to the table, ushering in new possibilities.

The main goal of the roundtables is to achieve legal permanency for children and teenagers in foster care. Legal permanency can be achieved through:

  • Reunification with a birth parent or the family from which the child was removed.
  • Adoption or guardianship with a relative or non-relative before the youth turns 18.

The Casey Family Programs study evaluated the permanency status of the nearly 500 children and teenagers whose cases went through the roundtables, one year after the process was completed. The 12-month follow-up found that:

  • 31 percent (153 children) had achieved legal permanency. Of those:
    • 44 percent achieved it through guardianship.
    • 29 percent through adoption.
    • 27 percent through reunification.
  • 49 percent (243) had an improved permanency status – that is, progress had been made on their paths toward permanency.

Most of the nearly 500 children and teenagers whose permanency status was evaluated by Casey Family Programs were from Fulton or DeKalb Counties. They ranged in age from one to 18, with a median age of 13. More than 90 percent were African American.

Three of every four of the children had been in foster care for at least two years and 55 percent at least four years. The average number of foster care placement moves per child was five.

In addition to the 31 percent who achieved permanency, only one youth (less than 1%) re-entered foster care after achieving permanency. That percentage is significantly lower than Georgia’s statewide re-entry rate of 4.4 percent in fiscal year 2009.

Casey Family Programs analyzed data on more than 9,000 children in foster care throughout Georgia and found a significant improvement in permanency achievement in 2009 – the first year that roundtables were implemented statewide – when compared to 2008. The statewide implementation of roundtables may have played a critical role in this success.

The evaluation also found that younger children – in particular, those younger than six – were more likely than older ones to achieve permanency, which tracks the findings of other foster care studies.

Permanency roundtables also have proved to be successful in developing new strategies to expedite permanency, as well as identifying systemic barriers that can get in the way of permanency. That knowledge will be productive for Georgia in the future as it continues its efforts to find safe and permanent families for children and teenagers in foster care.

The 24-Month Outcome Report

In early 2009, Georgia’s Department of Human Services, Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS), and Casey Family Programs implemented a permanency roundtable project to address legal permanency (reunification, guardianship or adoption) for nearly 500 children, most of whom had beenin foster care for 24 months or longer in two metro Atlanta counties.
Permanency roundtables (PRTs) are intensive, structured case consultations among DFCS case managers, supervisors, administrators, specialists, and Casey permanency consultants, all of whom are focused on bringing creativity and urgency to expediting permanency for children in care. Care Solutions, Inc., a Georgia-based consulting firm, served as the project evaluator in collaboration with Casey’s Research Services work unit.
This October 2012 report focuses on the permanency outcomes achieved after 24 months by the youth who participated in the PRTs, and updates a previously published report on child outcomes at 12 months following the roundtables.