Jon Ossoff, Marsha Blackburn demanding answers from Georgia DFCS

Letter comes after a series of Atlanta News First Investigates’ reports on the practice of office hoteling
DCFS is determined to end the practice of foster kids living in government offices.
Published: Feb. 17, 2023 at 3:09 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 20, 2023 at 4:09 PM EST
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ATLANTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) - A duo of bipartisan U.S. senators sent a letter on Friday to Georgia’s Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS), demanding answers into several of the agency’s practices, including housing kids in DFCS care in department offices.

The letter comes after a series of months-long Atlanta News First Investigates’ reports on the practice of 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.

“As leaders, we have no higher obligation than to protect those who cannot protect themselves – especially children at risk of abuse or neglect,” wrote U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff of Georgia, a Democrat who chairs the Senate’s human rights subcommittee, and Marsha Blackburn, a Tennessee Republican who also sits on the subcommittee. “Yet recent official and press reports raise serious concerns about the ability of Georgia Division of Family and Children Services to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the children in its care.”

ORIGINAL REPORT: Unfit for living: Why kids under DFCS care were housed in offices

In the letter, Ossoff and Blackburn specifically asked Commissioner Candace Broce about her recent testimony of “DFCS’s practice of placing vulnerable, at-risk children who do not have traditional placements in hotels or DFCS offices, a practice you referred to as ‘hoteling.’”

Among the questions Ossoff and Blackburn are asking and requesting are:

  • How many children in each of Georgia’s counties are currently housed in hotels, DFCS offices or other places besides a foster family or group home?
  • For children currently house in hotels or DFCS offices, what is the average distance between their current placement and their home residence?
  • And a list of all names and locations of the hotels, DFCS offices or placements other than a foster family or group home where DFCS housed children between Jan. 1, 2022, and present-day.

“While these issues may have started before your tenure, they can and must end under your watch,” Ossoff and Blackburn wrote.

Read the entire letter here.

Broce testified last month before state lawmakers in which she said the agency was “hell bent” on ending the practice of office hoteling.

RELATED: He was in state custody sleeping in a DFCS office. Now he’s speaking out

“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.

RELATED: Kids in DFCS care running away, falling victim to sex trafficking

Atlanta News First Investigates also 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.

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

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