SB 350 Reflections

The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) Code of Ethics provides guidelines to help social work professionals guide their practice through a core set of values of service, social justice, dignity and worth of a person, importance of human relationships, integrity and competence (NASW, 2014). Social workers should strive to promote social justice and social change on behalf of their clients. The primary resulting strength of SB 350, as introduced, is the raised awareness among Georgia’s voters of the need for more improvements and reforms to the current child welfare system while issues surrounding privatization are reviewed. SB 350 encourages the exploration of different models of child welfare systems. In one perspective, SB 350 can be seen as the encouragement of capitalization and economic development on multiple levels. An overwhelming weakness of SB 350 is that the bill provides no increase in total funding levels to address the myriad of services to be provided as well as the abundance of known and unknown developments. A lack of transparency and accountability are issues as well. The responsibility of social workers is to give people the tools with which to effect positive change. The NASW foster care policy statement updated in 2009 identifies privatization as an evolving issue and discusses overseeing service quality in transition and reporting outcomes at national and state levels (p. 148). Additionally, the NASW reaffirms it dedication to utilizing best practices and its commitment toward discovery (p.147).

A negative unintended consequence of the implementation of SB 350, as introduced, is demonstrated through a problem that has arisen in Nevada regarding businessman Michael Stickler (Bellisle, M., 19 March 2014). Since 2007, Mr. Stickler’s business, Faith Based Solutions, had been receiving a $1.5 million, three-year federal faith-based initiative grant from the Administration for Children and Families in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Mr. Stickler’s financial actions with regard to the grant allocations are being reviewed in the federal court system. Implied is that Mr. Stickler used some of the money to overpay himself and enjoy a Hawaiian vacation, among other things. In 2012, Mr. Stickler was indicted by a federal grand jury on a charge of “stealing public money”, specifically, the grant funds.

The social issue addressed through SB 350, as introduced, regards the privatization of an already established public child welfare system in Georgia. Legislative efforts have failed to pass and resulted in Governor Deal’s newly created the Child Welfare Reform Council. Overall, this can be seen as a positive effect of the workings of the U.S. democratic process. The significance of fully privatizing a state’s public child welfare system is evident at personal and professional, local and state levels. Funding impacts the entire spectrum of local, state and federal systems. The Nebraska experiment of child welfare privatization did not succeed though it could be categorized as an extreme example. Issues of organizational transparency and accountability abound. More hopeful is that voices of families of origin and foster care families will be recognized and more of their needs met. Though there is a National Foster Parent Association (NFPA), Georgia is not a member state. As the primary service providers to Georgia’s most vulnerable children, their input deserves the most consideration. There are many consequences that have emerged from the privatization efforts of other states that should be closely examined in order to ascertain how any variations of this bill might affect Georgians at every point.