By Ed Brock
In 2001, Gwen Jeffcoat found herself in a job she hated while trying to support her two daughters. It was at that time Jeffcoat learned that she was suffering from breast cancer, and suddenly her outlook on life changed.
“There's something about being diagnosed with cancer that makes you reevaluate your life,” Jeffcoat said Friday after speaking at the Department of Family and Children Services (DFCS) annual legislative breakfast. “I started setting goals to make my life better.”
Jeffcoat went to DFCS and applied for the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program, something she had never done before. With that financial assistance, she was able to go back to school and get training for a better job while receiving treatment for her cancer.
She now works for the Georgia Department of Labor, and has two more years to go to get her bachelor's degree in business from Clayton State University.
“I am grateful that there was a program to help me pick myself back up,” Jeffcoat said.
Clayton County DFCS Director Cathy Ratti conciders Jeffcoat as one of the department's success stories during a breakfast whose audience included Clayton County Commissioners Virginia Gray, Carl Rhodenizer and Wole Ralph, State Reps. Ron Dodson, D-Lake City, and State Sen. Valencia Seay, D-Riverdale, among others.
The breakfast gave elected officials a chance to learn the progress Clayton County DFCS has made in the last year. They included, in Clayton County, an average of 1,593 households a year receive TANF benefits and annually $4,205,290 in TANF benefits are paid out. A total of 11,152 households per month are receiving foodstamps, with $35,181,443 in annual foodstamp benefits being paid.
Ratti also said the department received 2,577 referrals to Child Protective Services and performed 1,677 investigations during fiscal year 2005. They also had 476 diversion cases in which the person under investigation was referred to some other program for help.
“We can now talk to parents and not label them off the bat as abusers,” Ratti said.
She also said that DFCS has been placing an emphasis on placing children who have been removed from their homes with relatives. Margaret Price, the office's new support person for grandparents and other relatives who are raising their grandchildren, is in charge of informing and educating the client about the resources they might qualify for.
Melba Richards-Garcia also spoke about the DFCS Independent Living Program that helps foster children between the ages of 14 and 21 make the transition into adult life.
To report child abuse to DFCS call (770) 603-4602. To report elder abuse call (404) 657-5250. To make a donation, volunteer for DFCS or for more information on DFCS services call (770) 473-2492.