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Lack of foster families leads to temporary hotel housing for few children
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Placement costs for foster care children:

  • Three days in a hotel: $3,000
  • Three days in a group home: $540
  • Three days in a DFCS foster home: $60

In the first three months of 2015, more than a handful of Hall County foster care kids with the Division of Family and Children Services spent an average of two nights in a hotel.

“We had a total of eight children having to be in a hotel during that time,” said Hall-Dawson DFCS Director Holly Campolong.

The hotel stays are symbolic for the foster care problems that plague DFCS and area children: at times, they have nowhere else to go.

When the child is removed from the home or the child can no longer stay in his/her new placement, the local agencies work to find a place to house the child.

“We often have to make decisions, working with the judges, to pull a child from the home immediately, sometimes in the middle of the night,” said Ashley Fielding, Department of Human Services’ legislative and governmental affairs communications director. “Sometimes the situation is such that we don’t always have a foster home waiting ready to meet the need that has just presented itself.”

“Having a child stay in a hotel temporarily while the more permanent placement is found is a Band-aid that we unfortunately have to use sometimes.”

If nothing is immediately available, local staff will occasionally use the hotel tactic, a process that Fielding said has been in place in some areas for a few years.

New reporting laws spelled more reports for caseworkers to handle, as there are now roughly 10,000 children statewide in the foster care system, Fielding said.

In a South Georgia case, two days of constant calls led to placement for a child who came into DFCS’ care.

“The county director and case worker were all working together and calling every placement resource within probably a couple hundred miles that seemed to fit this child’s need,” Fielding said.

For three days in a hotel, Fielding said the cost for a child is $3,000, assuming a $35 per hour fee for the provider supervising the child.

In a DFCS foster home, the cost would be $60 for the same three-day stay.

Children with special needs and the attempts to keep sibling groups together, Fielding said, present problems for quick and immediate placement.

“We need more families who can take sibling groups,” she said. “We also need more families who can take kids between sixth grade through 12th grade.”

DFCS contracts out the supervision so someone can stay with the child, transport the child to school or to the local DFCS office and make sure the child is fed.

Campolong and Fielding were hopeful after a resource development team for foster families in Region 2 — which includes Hall County — began again recently after years without one. The team consists of a supervisor and seven case managers working to recruit and retain foster parents in North Georgia.

“We actually have a case manager from Hall County transitioning into do that as well, so she’s going to be focusing on recruiting for Hall County specifically,” Campolong said.

Orientation and IMPACT training classes are scheduled for May.

Learn more about Hall County's foster care crisis and how you can help via the Broken Bonds series published in October.

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