What politics are behind DFCS meddling?

Ben Nelms's picture

Fayette County Department of Family and Children’s Services (DFCS) Director Mary Davis met her political match last week when she was “reassigned” out of Fayette and into another area of the agency.

There will doubtless be those on both sides of the reassignment equation with strong opinions, some in favor of the move and some not.

State employees, unlike many in the private sector, are heavily protected. Davis could appeal her transfer unless factors such as tenure/retirement or politics convince her to do otherwise.

But there is a bigger issue at hand. It involves the local DFCS community board, appointed by the county commission. The local board, too, ran afoul of the state system with their outspoken concerns over the recently state-imposed service assessment model, the oversight of Fayette cases by Clayton County DFCS staff and their advocacy for Davis, especially in a May 22 letter to DFCS Region 16/Clayton County DFCS Director Cathy Ratti.

Rumors had been flying for weeks, or longer, that Davis would be nuked. The board’s stand on Davis’ behalf apparently did not endear them to Georgia Department of Human Resources or its DFCS division.

A couple of weeks after the board’s May 22 letter to Ratti went out, a cadre of suits and high-rollers from state DFCS (and a sprinkling of Clayton County DFCS staff) came to Fayetteville and presented Fayette board members with an information session on the performance pyramid assessment model.

(I suppose that it’s not coincidental that the information session and the board’s open support of Davis occurred nearly simultaneously.)

Within another week or two former Fulton County DFCS Assistant Director Cylenthia Clark’s trial for cruelty to children began and ended in Fayette County Superior Court with a plea that resulted in a substantial 10 years probation.

The following day, last Wednesday, Davis was “reassigned.” (Another non-coincidence, I suppose.)

And a day or so after that Ratti calls the Fayette DFCS office to inform board members that their monthly meeting was being cancelled. She was not aware that the meeting was not going to occur.

Regardless, it was a move that Ratti had no authority to order. But for some, certainly not Ratti, inside the halls of power, real or perceived power trumps authority, if it can get away with it.

So what’s the deal here? Was the local Fayette board so naive or off base that their perspective on the needs of Fayette residents and their support for Davis led to them to be out of touch with reality and subject to some kind of disillusioned myopia?

Some will doubtless say yes.

Or were the actions taken on the basis of objective deliberations by board members with years of experience on that board and in their respective fields?

Others will doubtless say yes.

And likely without fail, the real reason/s for the convoluted set of circumstances and the apparently questionable lack of respect for the local board by the His and Her Majesties of state DFCS will stay buried as deeply as any corporate secret.

And the action by Ratti was an example of political subterfuge. It was an attempt to force the will of a larger entity on a smaller one without legitimate authority. A rose by any other name: retribution?

The whole thing reminds me of something Franklin Roosevelt once said, “In politics, nothing happens by accident. Whatever happens, you can bet it was planned that way.”

It also reminds me of something William Tecumseh Sherman once said, “The truth is not always palatable and should not always be told.” Apparently both apply in this case.

But there is an even bigger issue at hand, beyond the issues involving DFCS or any governmental agency in any state. How many times have we seen where a larger government, through its agencies or outside political pressure groups, imposes its political will on smaller governments? Federal government on the states, states on cities and counties or governments of any size on its citizens?

They always say it’s equitable and for the greater good. It may be the American way but that has nothing to do with it being right or just. It’s just that we’ve been bred and educated to acquiesce to power, real or perceived. And if you buck the system, you expect to pay the price.

My line of work is journalism today, but for two decades it was in Human Services, so I’m at least a little familiar with the rocky terrain of service provision for those in need. Human Services, nationwide, is difficult enough with the historic reality of pitiful funding. The situation is ratcheted up an order of magnitude when powerful bureaucracies responsible for administering those funds are involved.

So to state DFCS or anyone else with concerns over the board’s positions: if your concerns are real, then make your case. If not, then back off and let the board get on with their otherwise thankless job of trying to advocate for Fayette’s children.

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