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Attorney tapped to lead state child welfare division

POSTED: January 22, 2014 4:00 a.m.

The watchdog agency of the state's child welfare system has a new director.

Gov. Nathan Deal earlier this month appointed attorney Ashley Willcott to oversee the Office of Child Advocate.

"I'm very flattered and honored," said Willcott, who for many years served as a special attorney general for the Dawson County and Rockdale departments of family and children services.

She replaces Tonya Boga, who resigned in November, amid controversy over the state's Division of Family and Children Services handling of cases involving two children who later died.

A certified child welfare law specialist with lengthy experience in the juvenile justice system, Willcott said she is proud to step up to such an important position.

"Ultimately my goal is to raise the bar in child welfare across the state, whether it's from an agency perspective, a lawyer's perspective, a child welfare service provider's perspective, but overall raise the bar that everybody can improve practices and improve outcomes and do everything possible to check the children," she said.

Her appointment is effective Feb. 1.

Appointing Willcott is one of Deal's initial steps in his pledge to correct flaws in the state's child welfare system in light of recent tragedies.

Deal wants to spend $27 million over a three-year period to add more than 400 new caseworkers and 87 new supervisors in an effort to reduce the caseload of the state Division of Family and Children Services.

Reforming the system is expected to be high on the governor's agenda for the Georgia General Assembly's 2014 legislative session that started on Monday.

"We've had cases that have been very bad," said Deal on Jan. 2, during one of his first public appearances this year.

Speaking in Dahlonega, Deal also outlined a plan intended to improve child welfare role by placing private organizations in charge of children in the state's care.




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