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Judicial summit to focus on foster children
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The Northeastern Judicial Circuit Justice for Children is holding a summit at the Frances Meadows Aquatic Center in Gainesville today to discuss the well-being of Hall County foster children.

The midmorning meeting will bring together professionals, leaders and foster parents from the state and county.

The summit is being sponsored by the Supreme Court of Georgia’s Committee on Justice for Children, which is funded by a federal grant.

Michelle Barclay is assistant director of the committee.

“We do this summit in partnership with the judicial branch and executive branch. Together, our goal is continuous quality improvement of our system that serves children,” Barclay said.

There are currently 120 children in foster care in Hall County and nine in Dawson County.

But Barclay was reassuring about those figures.

“Those are all manageable numbers,” she said.

Thirty-eight of those children are under the age of 5.

“We care a lot about those baby brains,” Barclay said.

In the past, the Clinton administration aimed to establish more permanent homes for foster children by emphasizing creating legal avenues to permanent adoption.

Those measures have been successful, and now, the Obama administration has been sending out policy memos that say the health and well-being of foster children should be emphasized.

“The Obama administration has a great memo they put out last year. Safety and permanence are really important, obviously. But we also need to focus on educational outcomes, health outcomes, how the children are connecting to people,” Barclay said.

The summit will open by discussing the well-being memo, she said. Then a statistician will go over the numbers.

“We’ll let the data drive the summit — walk local folks through what their data shows for last year. There’s always good stuff and bad stuff,” Barclay said.

Some of the data that will be shown includes the rate of children placed in foster care in Hall and Dawson counties, their length of stay, the number eventually returned to their birth families and the number of children who are adopted.

The data for each county will be compared to data from other counties in Georgia, organizers said.

Judge Michael Key, from Troup County, former president of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, will close the summit with a legal perspective on how juvenile courts can best advocate for children.