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Juvenile Court stakeholders target abused, neglected children

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

Several stakeholders in Clayton County's Juvenile Court system, including judges, lawyers, police officers, Department of Family and Children Services representatives, school system officials, and child advocates, will gather at the Clayton County Police Department Headquarters, 7911 North McDonough St., Jonesboro, today from 9 a.m., to 4 p.m., to participate in a Justice for Children Summit.

The summit is being convened so stakeholders can discuss abused and neglected children in the county, and determine ways to improve how those cases are handled by public officials.

During the summit, the county's statistics for foster care cases, adoptions, and abused child cases, will be addressed.

"We believe real change in juvenile justice is most effective at the local level," said Beth Locker, deputy project director for the Georgia Supreme Court's Committee on Justice for Children. "By bringing in all of these local stakeholders, we believe Clayton County can experience a positive change."

The summit will begin with a taped greeting from Supreme Court Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears, and Justice P. Harris Hines.

Participants will take part in discussions about drug endangered children, adoption, and foster care.

Locker said Clayton County generally does well, compared to state figures, when it comes to foster care. Last year, there were 32 Clayton County children in foster care, for every 10,000 children in the county. Statewide, there were 51 foster children for every 10,000 children, according to state figures.

Locker said the county needs improvement in the number of children who are removed from their homes, only to be returned within 72 hours. Neglect was the number one reason for removing a child from a home last year, making up 44 percent of reasons for all removals.

Other top reasons included caretaker drug and alcohol abuse (22 percent), and physical abuse (20 percent).

Statewide, only 10 percent of children are returned within three days of removal. Twenty-two percent of Clayton County children are returned within the same time frame.

"It sort of begs the question of 'Why were they removed in the first place?' " Locker said.