Local judge to join new Children and Family board

By Daniel Silliman


Clayton County Juvenile Court Judge Steven Teske has been appointed to the advisory board of a newly created agency.

Gov. Sonny Perdue announced Wednesday he was moving to restructure two agencies, the Children's Trust Fund Commission and the Children and Youth Coordinating Council, merging them into the Governor's Office for Children and Families.

"By combining the skills and resources of these agencies, we will be in a better position to ensure that our child welfare system is strong," Perdue said in his announcement. "With this reorganization, we will have a more unified approach to serving all at-risk children, from infancy through adolescence."

Jen Benneke, the executive director of the newly created agency, said the focus will be on the "entire family cycle," from "the at-risk infant to the troubled teen."

Previously, the Children's Trust Fund supported child-abuse prevention projects, dealing with child welfare up to age 6, and the Children and Youth Coordinating Council -- where Teske served as vice chair -- funded local abstinence education, delinquency-prevention and juvenile-justice projects for youths.

Teske said the merger should have happened years ago, because it will provide a more comprehensive approach to dealing with child welfare.

"Many of the issues we address among delinquent youth involve abuse and neglect during their childhood," Teske said. "It only makes sense to develop strategies and programs that take into consideration the risk factors of children that can hurt them today and continue to hurt them as they grow older and manifest delinquent conduct."

The agency merger will go to the legislature in the upcoming session, as part of Perdue's proposed "Children and Family Services Strengthening Act of 2008."

The new agency will become permanent, if approved by the legislature.Teske will be one of 18 people on the advisory board.