(San Jacinto, CA) A hearing on the human rights of foster children in the state of Georgia was held on Oct. 25. The U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary’s subcommittee discussed the systemic issues of child foster care contributing to human trafficking.
Sen. Jon Ossoff of Georgia and Sen. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee chaired the hearing.
Rachael Aldridge and Mon’a Huston, shared their experiences with the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS) during the first panel. Rachel is the mother of Brooklynn Aldridge, who unfortunately passed away while in DFCS custody in 2018, and Mon’a recently transitioned out of DFCS care at the age of 19.
“One of the worst parts about being in [their] care was that I was overmedicated. DFCS kept telling my doctors to up my dosage because I was not behaving,” Huston said. “I was overmedicated to the point of always feeling overtired and sluggish. It hurt to walk. I had a lot of trauma and no one to talk about it with,” Huston said.
Ossoff said during the hearing that DFCS did not run background checks, did not listen to abuse warnings, and did not seek consent for placement in Rachel’s case.
“DFCS is supposed to protect children like Brooklyn. Instead, they violated my rights as her mother. They placed her—against my wishes—in a home with plainly unsuitable caregivers, setting off a chain of events that led to her murder,” Rachel said.
The senators recognized the difficulties experienced by them and the DFCS system’s failure to guarantee their safety and the safety of Brooklynn.
“100% of our clients’ reported experiencing abuse and or neglect while in the legal and physical custody of Georgia DFCS, including children placed in therapeutic foster homes, psychiatric residential treatment facilities and Commercial and Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC)- specific placements,” Emma Hetherington, director of the Wilbanks Child Endangerment and Sexual Exploitation (CEASE) Clinic, said.
Hetherington highlighted the mistreatment within the DFCS that includes the agency describing clients as promiscuous, hypersexualized, sex addict, manipulative, non-compliant and prostitutes.
“Let’s all commit to working together, being clear-eyed and honest with ourselves in the issues that we face in saving the lives and opportunities too many innocent children are right now being denied,” Ossoff said.