DFCS offices in Columbus raided; warrants issued for two employees

benw@ledger-enquirer.comSeptember 5, 2012 

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation and other authorities raided the Muscogee County offices of the Division of Family and Children Services today and issued warrants for two employees, a supervisor and former acting director, the GBI said in a statement.

Warrants were issued for Phyllis Mitchell, an intake supervisor, and Deborah Cobb, a former acting director of DFCS for 18 months. Both are charged with one count each of making false statements and writings, concealment of facts, fraudulent documents in matters within jurisdiction of state or political subdivisions and subornation of false swearing.

The search at the offices was performed to locate and gather records stored at the facility.

The GBI actions stem from an Aug. 15 request from District Attorney Julia Slater who sought assistance after learning of an investigation in Columbus by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Office of the Inspector General. The information indicated that supervisors at DFCS Child Protective Services office were alleged to have destroyed, delayed, changed and falsified the intake of child abuse reports to maintain compliance with department guidelines.

"The Georgia Department of Human Services is committed to detecting and preventing fraud and abuse in any of its programs," Clyde L. Reese III, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Human Services said in a prepared release. "It has been consistently communicated since January 2011 to all DHS employees in particular the Division of Families and Children Services child welfare and social services' staff that the safety of all children is a fundamental guiding principle."

To administer grants, the Department of Health and Human Services uses information from the Georgia DFCS  to determine the state's compliance with federal requirements. Among the requirements is the timeliness of initiating child maltreatment investigations.

As a penalty for failing to meet requirements of a Program Improvement Plan, the federal government withheld millions of dollars in grant funding from DFCS. Funding was released to DFCS after data showed a second program came back into substantial compliance.

The investigation centers on allegations that data was falsified. If an investigation confirms that charge, falsification of government records is a felony under Georgia law.

"No DHS employee has any reason or incentive to hide allegations of abuse or neglect in order to lower the number of children and families to be entered into the state system," Reese said. "DHS will cooperate fully with all federal and state authorities in their investigation."

At the end of the probe, a report will be turned over to the district attorney's office for review.

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