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Georgia General Assembly fails to pass child welfare bill

The Georgia General Assembly failed to pass child welfare bill on Thursday, aiming to privatize parts of the state's child services, due to disagreements between the two chambers.

On the last day of the 2014 session members of the state Senate, who wanted to privatize key parts of the child welfare system such as adoption and foster care, and members of the House of Representatives, who favored a pilot program to test privatization before full implementation, didn't find enough common ground to send the Senate Bill 350 to the Governor.

S.B. 350 would require the state Department of Human Services (DHS) to outsource some of their child welfare services through contracts with private providers. The bill passed the Senate, but the House Judiciary Committee altered it significantly, calling for a two-year pilot program based on the bill in select areas of the state.

Georgia Governor Nathan Deal (R-Ga) first endorsed the original bill in January, but last week Deal announced creation of a state commission to study child welfare services, in an attempt to delay the legislation by at least one year.

Georgia's Division of Family and Children's Services (DFCS) has received some strong criticism when the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that as many as 55 children died in just the first quarter of 2013 while under the care of DFCS.

The proponents of the privatization plan vow to work tirelessly to pass the legislation next year.

"I know one thing," said the bill sponsor state Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford. "I'll be working on this for the next nine months, and I will be back in January with another bill."

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