Studying the Child Welfare System in Georgia

It’s been called “custody-for-custody swap” and even “passport to service” — the decision to give custody of your child to the state.

It sounds cruel. But listen to the stories of those who have, and you’ll quickly see that it’s often a heartbreaking act of love.

Families faced with this decision may be out of ideas on how to protect their children with autism when they force their bodies against a wall. Parents struggle while children with dual diagnoses of impulse control disorder and intellectual disability wander out their door into the arms of child predators.

The stories are real. It’s exhausting for parents navigating programs that are trying to help and looking for what is actually making a difference.

Through a data grant with the USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism, the 11Alive research team, The Reveal, aims to show how the challenges of raising children with severe emotional and developmental disabilities can lead to abandonment.

In the past five years, 1,268 Georgia children have been abandoned or abandoned due to a parent’s incompetence or the child’s behavior. More than half of these children were abandoned twice – either by their parents, another family member, a foster parent or an agency that felt they could help.