Agencies in the community recognized the need to update the protocol due to changes in staff and the addition of in-home services and assessment since the protocol had been written during 1986. While discussions about updating the protocol were initiated by the director of the VAP prior to 2001, two occurrences during 2001 brought the issue to the forefront. First, a new CPS supervisor was hired during January 2001. The new CPS supervisor made updating the protocol a priority, helping to get the process underway. Second, problems with interactions among agencies were underscored in two local cases in which the involved schools failed to follow the appropriate policy and, therefore, the District Attorney was not able to file charges.
Agencies and other relevant parties that participated in the protocol revisions included the District Attorney's office, three law enforcement agencies — Quitman Police Department, Brooks County Sheriff's Office, and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation — the public school system, one private school, Behavioral Mental Health Services (the county mental health department), the pediatrician who handles most of the exams for child abuse and neglect, the VAP, the coroner, the Juvenile Court judge, the Brooks County magistrate, the Brooks County Health Department, and the Department of Juvenile Justice. Additionally, Family Services Connections served as an advisory group to the protocol committee, attended all meetings, and cosigned the protocol. The Family Services Connection is a collaborative of agencies — Extension Service, public health, and faith-based groups — and community representatives that receive State funds to address child abuse prevention education. DFCS staff reported that the involvement of Family Services Connections in the protocol revisions increased the visibility of the effort within the community.
Implementation of the Reform
During the revision process, agencies met once or twice a month for 6 months. The director of the VAP chaired the meetings. Agency representatives reviewed the protocol section that pertained to their agency. The meetings also fostered information exchanges. For example, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation provided a history of the existing procedures and explained the role of the agency.
The revised protocol includes the following topics:
- Committee meetings;
- Confidentiality and sharing of information;
- Multidisciplinary Team Review (MDT);
- Role of the Department of Family and Children Services (including topics of interagency interviews, videotaping, role of the public school system);
- Role of law enforcement in handling referrals of child abuse and neglect (including joint investigation criteria and procedures);
- Role of the Juvenile Court;
- Role of the Magistrate Court;
- Role of the District Attorney's office;
- Role of the Brooks County Community Services Board;
- Role of the Department of Juvenile Justice;
- Child Fatality Review;
- Victim Assistance Program;
- Domestic violence; and
- Child abuse prevention.
The process of revising the child abuse protocol served as cross-agency training for both new and experienced staff. As each agency revised its section of the protocol, the revisions were discussed so that all participating agencies understood the procedures within and across agencies.The protocol was completed during March 2002 and was circulated to all participants. The following agencies signed the protocol:
- District Attorney's Office;
- Brooks County Department of Family and Children Services;
- Brooks County Schools;
- Quitman Policy Department;
- Brooks County Magistrate;
- Brooks County Juvenile Court;
- Brooks County Health Department;
- Brooks County Sheriff's Office;
- Brooks County Behavioral Health;
- Westbrook School;
- Brooks County Coroner;
- Brooks County Sheriff's Office Victim Assistance Program
- Brooks County Family Connection;
- Department of Juvenile Justice; and
- Georgia Bureau of Investigation — Region 9.
The document has since been used to help train both new and experienced staff.