FORSYTH, GA -- Gov. Nathan Deal announced a change of leadership in the troubled Division of Family and Children's Services that includes a new director. The governor, who is running for re-election this year, says he wants to change the culture of the agency. Thursday, he appointed Bobby Cagle as interim director.
Cagle will leave his position as commissioner of the Department of Early Care and Learning.
The governor also said DFCS will be separate from DHS and the head of DFCS will report directly to the governor instead of the commissioner.
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Cagle will replace Sharon Hill, who will serve at the governor's Office of Planning and Budget. Hill inherited a problem plagued agency last fall. She started just weeks after the death of 10 year old Emani Moss. Soon after, 11Alive News broke the news of a federal warning letter, sent to DFCS, that concerned ongoing issues with its food stamp program.
Neither of the cases were the result of decisions made by Hill, but she was unable to maintain her position after the political fallout.
Deal told reporters following a speech in Forsyth that he wants to change the "culture" of DFCS, which he says is weighted toward keeping troubled families intact. "While that is a laudable goal, I believe the more appropriate goal is the welfare of the child," Deal, a Republican, told reporters.
Investigators say the parents of Emani Moss murdered the 10-year-old after DFCS caseworkers restored the child back to her family last year.
Democrats were skeptical of Deal's move. "This is the fourth DFCS leader we've had in his four years of tenure," said Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver (D-Decatur). "Constant leadership change is not good for the online, front-line caseworker." Sen. Jason Carter (D-Decatur), who is running for governor, issued a statement saying "it bothers me that it took Gov. Deal this long to act after so many kids and families have already fallen through the cracks."
Deal cited the death of five year old Heaven Wood last month. Her parents had a DFCS case file in Floyd County. But Deal says DFCS lost track of her when the parents moved her to Monroe County and failed to notify DFCS. "I think we need to have some way to have a notification requirement" with criminal penalties as part of the law, Deal said.
Deal also announced that Katie Jo Ballard will serve as deputy interim director of DFCS. She will leave her role as executive director of the governor's Office for Children and Families.
Amy Jacobs, senior policy adviser for the governor's Office of Planning and Budget, will replace Cagle as interim commissioner of the Department of Early Care and Learning, according to the release.
All of the appointments take effect on Monday, and they are all interim.