Students and alumni from the School of Social Work's Child Welfare Education Program were honored for their efforts in a recent federal review of Georgia's Division of Family and Children Services saving the state from having to repay millions of dollars in funding to the federal government.
"We were going to have to refund the money that had already been given to us," said Tracey Roberts BSW '04, MSW '05, a DFCS social services supervisor in Madison County. "It was a total of $8.6 million if we didn't meet the standards in our Program Improvement Plan."
Every two to three years states are evaluated by the Children's Bureau, an arm of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, for their conformity to federal requirements for child protective, foster care, adoption, family preservation and support, and independent living services. The review system used by the Children's Bureau evaluates whether the agency is following federal requirements, what is happening to families and children as they are engaged in child welfare services, in an effort to assist States in achieving positive outcomes for families and children.
If states don't meet the standards of the CFSRs, the Children's Bureau allows them to come up with a PIP to address the problems that were identified in the review. In August, DFCS Region 5, which covers 12 counties near UGA, exceeded percentages required by the PIP and put the state of Georgia over the percentages needed to meet their review standards.
"We helped put the state over," said David Kelley, director of DFCS region five. "I'm the regional director, so I kind of live and die by the numbers," he quipped.
"We were doing the work, we just weren't documenting the work the way it needed to be documented and that was a statewide deal," Roberts said. "[Region five] had a lot of people that made 100% on all of the outcomes."
Kelley recognized the "hundred-percenters" at a special gathering in October. Twenty graduates from the UGA School of Social Work Child Welfare Education Program were honored, including Roberts.
"It was special because we made significant progress in the last year. It was the first time that we really recognized our staff contributions individually," Kelley said.
"Most of our UGA graduates work longer than their work commitment and many are promoted," said Alberta Ellett, director of the Child Welfare Program and associate professor in the School of Social Work. "For example, Tracey Roberts has worked in DFCS six years-four beyond the time required and has been promoted to supervisor. The IV-E grads are building DFCS leadership capacity."
UGA School of Social Work started its Child Welfare Education Program in 1995 and is one of ten schools in the state that receives Title IV-E funding to train child welfare social workers. Under the direction of Ellet, the program has funded 428 stipends for students since 2001. Ellett worked with DFCS to develop an employee selection protocol, which the ten participating schools of social work now use in selecting students with child welfare knowledge, skills, abilities and values, to improve retention.
Ellett, a nationally respected expert in the field of child welfare, along with Chad Ellett, Ph.D., President/CEO of CDE Research Associates, Inc.; Jackie Ellis, Ph.D., program coordinator for the Child Welfare Education Program; and Tonya Westbrook, Ph.D. '06, completed the largest statewide retention and turnover study of child welfare employees in Georgia and presented the results along with 37 recommendations to improve child welfare to the Georgia Senate Children and Youth Committee in 2003. Georgia DFCS has implemented many of the recommendations.
UGA School of Social Work child welfare graduates who were honored include:
Collette Tennant (MSW '09)
Adrien Williams (MSW '10)
Hannah Rule (MSW '12)
Ben Addison (BSW '09, MSW '10)
Elizabeth Patrich (MSW '07)
Deana Robinson(MSW '10)
Savannah Smith (MSW '09)
Mary Catherine Hawks (BSW '10)
Dawn Kemp (BSW ‘97, MSW '06)
Nadia Pierce (MSW '08)
Stephanie Higdon (BSW '98, MSW '08)
Todd Morrison (MSW '08)
Virginia Greenbaum (MSW '10)
Tracey McMahon (MSW '06)Earline Hall (MSW '03)
Tracey Roberts (BSW '04, MSW '05)
Nicole Gary(MSW '12)
David Bolt (BSW '09)
Mandy Holcombe (BSW '05, MSW '12)
Tammy Middlebrooks (MSW '10)