Rep. Andy Welch to chair committee on child welfare
From the Henry Herald June 24, 2014 edition:
ATLANTA — State Rep. Andy Welch has been appointed by the speaker of the House to head a committee examining the regulation of organizations and facilities providing care to children on behalf of the state.
Welch, R-McDonough, was the lead sponsor of a bill establishing the House Study Committee on Licensing and Inspection of Child Welfare Providers. Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, tapped Welch to chair the committee which also includes Reps. Mary Margaret Oliver, D-Decatur, and Republicans Wendell Willard of Sandy Springs, Tom Weldon of Ringgold, Kevin Tanner of Dawsonville, Penny Houston of Nashville and Joyce Chandler of Grayson.
Welch, who represents parts of Butts, Henry and Newton counties, said various nonprofit facilities provide services of different types to children in state care, including those connected to the juvenile justice system and the Department of Family and Children Services. He said one focus of the committee will be to understand who is providing those services and how various state agencies regulate them.
“The focus here is to look at the regulations, determine whether or not we’re creating an undue burden on the provider” and ensure, protective, educational and in some cases rehabilitative services are delivered, Welch said. “The protection of the state’s children, and wards of the state, is extremely important to their future … As legislators, we have a responsibility to make sure the agencies are providing those services.”
Welch said the committee will be interested in how such facilities are inspected so as to determine whether inspections by different agencies have overlapping areas of focus or are necessary to determine whether various services are provided adequately.
“We’re just trying to look at that balance and see if, indeed, it is out of whack,” he said. The committee will study “in as many facets as possible, how is the state providing care to children and to what extent can we provide better care and more effective regulatory oversight of these organizations that are providing care?”
Welch, who is vice chairman of the standing House Appropriations subcommittee on economic development and vice chairman of the House committee on code revision, said the child welfare study committee will meet at least three times in August and September of this year. One of those meetings will likely consist of a visit to a child welfare service provider to observe the inspection process.
He said if more than three meetings are needed, based on the information gathered by the committee and the questions that may remain after the three initial meetings, the committee could meet up to five times.
Welch said the first meeting is planned for mid-August with a presentation from the Department of Human Services. The study committee is expected to make any recommendations for legislative changes by the end of the year, in time for the next session of the General Assembly.