DFCS leader ‘hell bent’ on ending office housing for kids in state foster care

The practice of housing teens in DFCS offices was exposed by an Atlanta News First Investigates report
DCFS is determined to end the practice of foster kids living in government offices.
Published: Jan. 18, 2023 at 1:54 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 19, 2023 at 11:31 AM EST
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ATLANTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) - The head of Georgia’s family and children’s care agency told lawmakers on Tuesday her agency is determined to end the practice of foster kids living in government offices, an issue exposed by an Atlanta News First Investigates report last year.

“The battle continues but to win the war, we need reinforcements,” said Candace Broce, commissioner of the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS). “We must address the pipeline of children entering our custody and ending up ‘hoteled,’ when they should have never entered foster care. It only takes a handful of cases to upend the entire system.

“Since joining this agency, we have been hell bent on ending hoteling, a practice born out of necessity,” Broce said, “but one that contradicts our mission, crushes our work force, and derails life-saving work.”

During a hearing before the General Assembly’s joint appropriations committee, Broce openly detailed to lawmakers the struggles of the state’s foster care system.

The issue exposed by Atlanta News First months-long investigation is called office hoteling: housing teens in government offices for weeks or even months without a bed and without going to school, according to DFCS records. Numerous police reports documented kids doing drugs, fighting each other, and fighting workers.

Body camera footage and 911 calls highlighted the chaos that was happening in Fulton and Dekalb counties in 2021 and 2022.

“This session, we will offer legislation to fix statutory loopholes, ambiguous definitions and contradictory terms to better serve vulnerable families, keep more families safely intact and bolster our efforts to end hoteling,” Broce said.

Atlanta News First Investigates revealed Georgia’s foster care system is overburdened because kids experiencing mental or behavioral health issues have juvenile court cases which typically end in two ways: go to a detention facility or go into DFCS custody. Judges often choose DFCS custody.

However, DFCS argued Tuesday, “the children need health care, not foster care.”

Broce said office hoteling practice cost the state $28 million last year and also resulted in an unprecedented burnout of case workers and resources.

“If we want to end hoteling in this state, we desperately need these changes in state law,” Broce said.

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