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Latarski: More than additional resources needed
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No doubt you have heard of the horrendous case involving the little girl who was returned to her family by the Department of Family and Children Services and was subsequently found dead in a trash can after being starved and beaten.

The parents have been arrested and charged, and, while they are presumed innocent until proven guilty, if these two gutless creatures are convicted of this crime there is no punishment too harsh. I would bring back the Inquisition just for them.

And now there is all sorts of finger-pointing and gashing of teeth over how DFCS could allow such a thing to happen and the search is on to find someone to blame. No doubt someone will be found and his/her head will likely roll.
There is little doubt that DFCS is the most fouled-up state agency in Georgia, and in this state that is saying a lot.

But this agency is also placed in a position where failure is not only a possibility but operates with a Sword of Damocles hanging over practically every decision.
The goal of the agency is to reunite families, so efforts are made to counsel and work with dysfunctional families. Foster families, group homes and other options are strained to the limit and even dwindling.

The nightmare being faced by people providing services centers on the fact they are dealing with human beings. No matter how diligent or dedicated you are, when you are dealing with other people and the manner in which they confront their myriad of problems, things can spin out of control very quickly. We wonder how it is possible a DFCS worker missed the warning signs in this case. There may be no legitimate excuse but the reason could be that the staffer was dealing with another case right in front of him/her that looked to be more critical and dangerous than this one.

This is not to excuse the myopia in which this case was viewed. But, you add this to the desire to reunite families, the limited resources available, and the continued efforts by government officials to save money at all costs and you have created a system ripe for disaster.

If you want to point fingers you must include the legislature. In a day and time when the watchword is always to save money, funding programs and providing resources gets pushed aside in the get-more-out-of-what-you-have mentality. Often, what you already have is not nearly enough.

Credit goes to Gov. Nathan Deal for recognizing the need for more resources and the promise to increase DFCS funding. Sadly, the light seems to come on only after this kind of gruesome incident occurs. Funding is a critical element, but such incidents also raise the specter of competent management and effective policies. Tradition calls for the blame to roll downhill, and rest assured there are some in government who are working hard to shift blame rather than bringing questions to the table about what substantive changes need to be made to make the system more effective.

There is no way you can have a perfect system. Mistakes are inevitable when you are dealing with humans and human suffering.

But, you can shine a light on the dark holes that can be repaired and demand those individuals in responsible positions take the proper steps to lessen the chance that similar tragedies are on the horizon.

Gov. Deal's recognition of the need for additional resources is a start. Sadly, however, we have seen the derailment of such starts in the past, as the reason and need for change seems to slip away with time until resurrected by the screaming headline of yet another tragedy.

Perhaps this time will be different. We can only hope.


Ric Latarski is a freelance writer who writes on a variety of topics and can be reached at