Workers says kids housed in hotels by DFCS just being shuffled around to get numbers down

ATLANTA — It’s a number the Georgia Department of Family and Children Services say they’ve worked aggressively to bring down.

Going from nearly 100 kids reported living in hotels earlier this year, to now a single child.

But those who work on the front lines with foster children say problems remain.

“I don’t see that anything is being solved right now, in my opinion, they’re taking one issue and moving it somewhere else,” a contract employee with DFCS who did not want to be identified said.

Channel 2 investigative reporter Ashli Lincoln spoke exclusively with the contract employee who said they work around the clock with foster children, and they say the referrals are still coming in.

Lincoln asked the employee if they felt like there’s been a solution to hoteling. They said they did not.

The worker said the hoteling numbers are down because children have been placed in group homes, private homes, and in some cases, overnight stays at DFCS offices.

“They’re really just putting the kids somewhere else. They’re really not saving any money if the aids are still having to spend time with these kids. They’re having to pay the group homes, they’re having to pay the foster homes,” the employee said.

Foster parents Julie and Jeff Sealander said the foster child they’ve been trying to adopt has lived in seven hotels across the state. He’s currently living in a group home in Tennessee.

“I’m very clear, the state is not going to stop paying attention to this issue,” said state Sen. Kim Jackson.


Jackson told Channel 2 Action News that Georgia lawmakers have held several sessions with DFCS on addressing this issue.

“We’re continuing to work on this. It’s not just a one-session type thing, this is going to be multiple sessions,” Jackson said.

After multiple Channel 2 Action News investigations, U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff’s office launched a bi-partisan investigation info DFCS.

Earlier this week, state judges alleged DFCS leaders recommended foster kids be detained in juvenile facilities because of scarce housing placement.

“The law specifically prohibits detaining a child because of lack of placement,” Paulding County Judge Carolyn Altman said during a hearing.

Channel 2 Action News has sent multiple requests to the state requesting an interview with DFCS Commissioner Candace Broce. We are currently awaiting their response.

Channel 2 Action News also sent an open records request to see how the hoteling of foster children is tracked. We are still waiting on that request as well.

The state did however send a three-page letter to Ossoff.

The state said recent allegations are not untrue. The state goes on to say comments regarding keeping kids in detention facilities were taken out of context.

The letter notes the number of foster children in Georgia has declined from more than 14,000 to just over 10,000 in August of this year.

Regarding hoteling, the state said the numbers were so high because of provider shortages and insurance denials for residential treatments.

DFCS sent Lincoln a statement Thursday, saying:

“In collaboration with our providers, advocates, fellow agencies, nonprofits, and the legal community, we have been working tirelessly to improve how we serve Georgia’s foster children through more funding, emergency staffing, specialized support, and new, therapeutic interventions to end hotel and office stays for good. Ending this practice will remain a moving target, but we’re proud of our progress as a team, bolstered by unprecedented support from state leaders.

“Together, we have secured millions in state funding to pay higher rates, built technology to match children with safe, loving homes and better communicate with our partners, provided staffing support to agencies, and for every child, asked exactly what the provider – be it a relative, foster home, or group home – would need to deliver appropriate care.

“We’re also developing new therapeutic interventions, including more specialized settings for youth with complex needs, Qualified Residential Treatment Program (QRTP) pilots, and CSEC capacity, which we will finalize and announce in coming months. We’ve been laser-focused on reaching these milestones for over two years, and our work will continue.”