Director, deputy director out at Coweta DFCS
by Sarah Fay Campbell
The top two administrators at the Coweta County office of the Department of Family and Children’s Services were no longer with the agency Friday.
DFCS has wide-ranging responsibilities, including investigating child abuse and neglect cases, overseeing foster care, administering food stamps and Medicaid and providing adult protective services.
Merita Roberts-Croll was director of the agency, and Valerie McKenzie was deputy director.
When asked if Roberts-Croll was available Friday afternoon, a front office employee at Coweta DFCS, located on U.S. 29 North, answered she was not, and when asked if Roberts-Croll was still the director, the employee said no. She also confirmed that McKenzie was no longer with the office.
The new person in change at the local office is Gretchen Cleveland, according to the employee.
Cleveland’s LinkedIn profile lists her as a field program specialist with DFCS in Villa Rica.
Ravae Graham, a spokesperson for the Georgia Department of Human Services, which oversees DFCS, was asked late Thursday to confirm that Roberts-Croll and McKenzie were no longer with the local office. Graham indicated in an e-mail Friday that she was investigating the matter.
Graham did not respond with any more information as of 6 p.m. Friday. Several former Coweta DFCS employees who wished to remain anonymous have expressed concerns about Roberts-Croll and her administration of the office.
The office has dealt with high turnover and staffing shortages in the past few years.
In the fall of 2012, Georgia’s Office of the Child Advocate reviewed the office. In the fall of 2013, a follow-up review was done.
The Office of the Child Advocate released its audit report in December.
After the original review, “we did come back with some concerns. But we left with the opinion that the leadership that was currently in place was equipped to take that office in the right direction,” Ryan Sanford, assistant child advocate, said in January 2013.
However, "in spite of some improvements and the new staff hired in 2012, Coweta County was still experiencing significant issues in the fall of 2013,” according to the audit report.
During the original review, "Coweta County DFCS was clearly in a state of transition," according to the report. "Many of the case managers that were listed as being responsible for the cases that our team intended to audit were unavailable or no longer worked with Coweta County DFCS. During the course of the audit, Coweta County DFCS was authorized to hire new employees to resolve the staffing issue.”
When OCA staff returned to Coweta in fall of 2013, "case managers still had caseloads that were too high and, therefore, unmanageable," according to the report. "Coweta County continued to be inadequately staffed and was again in the process of hiring new staff." The county director and administrator were again having to act as case managers "to keep the county operating," according to the report.
In the report, the OCA recommended that "immediate action should be taken to get the caseloads to a manageable point, to include sending in workers from other counties and/or the state office on a temporary basis.”
Officials said in the report that "Coweta County DFCS should be granted adequate resources to hire and maintain an adequate staff to protect Georgia's children” and that “serious attention should be given to recruiting and retaining staff in Coweta County, to include but not limited to recruiting people who will commit to remaining in Coweta rather than transferring to other counties after being trained due to location and any other issue that is contributing to high turnover."