Atlanta, GA. – Today, juvenile court judges testified at a hearing of the U.S. Senate Human Rights Subcommittee in Atlanta, Georgia, that the director of the Georgia Department of Family and Children Services (DFCS). called on juvenile judges to consider placing children with special needs in a juvenile detention center.
During the hour-long hearing, the Honorable Carolyn Altman, a juvenile judge in Paulding County, and the Honorable Nhan-Ai Simms, a juvenile judge in Gwinnett County, shared their experiences dealing with children in foster care in the Georgia system and Georgia’s DFCS.
Judge Altman testified: “I attended a meeting with about 30 other judges and DFCS leadership in August of this year. DFCS Commissioner Broce said that DFCS is not designed to care for these children and asked judges to consider incarcerating the children – locking them up in a juvenile detention center for a few days – so that DFCS might find housing for them could. As judges, we don’t lock up children, especially children with special needs, because we can’t find a place for them.” [Video]
Senator Ossoff asked Judge Altman about her testimony and the legality of DFCS’s alleged request to “consider detaining the children.”
Judge Altman testified that DFCS’s request to consider placing children with special needs in a juvenile correctional facility was “not lawful.” [Video]
When asked about the same meeting with DFCS leadership: Judge Simms said she was “heartbroken.”
“I think if our child welfare system has gotten to the point where we want to extend a child’s time and detention just because we can’t find a place for them, then there’s something wrong and it’s not working. And we need change. And you know, it’s kind of one of those things when you hear executives and lawyers say that: I was shocked.” Judge Simms testified. [Video]
Judge Altman also testified that when a fellow judge advised that the law “prohibits the detention of a child for lack of proper housing,” the DHS general counsel said the law could be changed.
“And when we attended that meeting, again, it was not private. There was no overhearing in passing. It was in a room with about 30 judges. One of my colleagues brought this up and said: The law expressly prohibits the detention of a child for lack of accommodation. And then General Counsel Regina Quick says, “Well, we can change that.”said Altman. [Video]
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