It may not be the place they preferred, but the Department of Children Services has been offered a site for children in their care to visit with family and participate in activities.
During Monday night’s monthly meeting, the county commission voted to make available, at least temporarily, the Cherry Hill Community Center over the wishes of Fourth District Commissioner Jonathan Norris who wanted the county to provide a specific vacant room in the county complex. The room previously used by judicial commissioners is in the section of the building where the county officials are located.
“Children in the care of the Department of Children Services don’t have a very good place to meet with their parents and families. Many times they are forced to meet in small corners of the DCS office or local restaurants. But it doesn’t allow really good quality time for them to visit with their parents. It’s been brought to my attention that there are up to 80 children from DeKalb County needing these services. The room that formerly housed our judicial commissioners is an empty room in the back of the county complex with access in and out of the building without using main hallways or public entrances. It would make a great place to help provide for these children. This would be at no expense to the county. The county’s only goal would be to offer a helping hand to these kids in need of these services. By providing the room it would allow the opportunity for quality time with their parents or guardians,” said Commissioner Norris.
While DCS has been using a public area of the county complex for visitation, Commissioner Norris said it doesn’t provide enough privacy. “They are already using this building. They use the county complex to do some of their visitations in the general area. All we would be doing is saying you can use this room so that when these kids are getting to see their parents, there are not 50 other kids or other people running around or distracting them. It’s not that we’re providing them office space. The idea is to give 80 kids an opportunity to see their parents and spend some time with them at no cost to us,” said Norris.
“I would like to make a motion that we allow the DCS to use the vacant room with a private room entrance at the rear of the county complex for the use of parents, guardians, and children,” added Norris.
After Norris’ motion received a second, Commissioner Joe Johnson of the Second District offered an amendment to Norris’ motion for the county to offer DCS the Cherry Hill Community Center instead of the vacant room at the county complex. Johnson said that room is unfinished and needs work. “I’m for the kids having a place to meet 100% but I think we need to look at some alternatives and I have come up with one. We’ve got the Cherry Hill Community Center. Why couldn’t we use it? I went over there and looked at the room (county complex). It doesn’t have a ceiling in it. The heat and air ducts are knocked down. It’s never been inspected by an electrical inspector. There are some more rooms that go to it. It’s going to cost 10 or 12 thousand dollars to put a ceiling in it, to finish the duct work, and get it inspected. I don’t see why the Cherry Hill Community Center wouldn’t suffice,” said Commissioner Johnson.
“Did we not have to have the electrical inspection when the judicial commissioners were using it”, asked Norris
“Should have been,” answered Commissioner Johnson.
“At the time we put the judicial commissioners over there we were pressed to find a place for them,” said County Mayor Tim Stribling.
Fifth District Commissioner Jerry Adcock argued that the Cherry Hill Community Center is not suitable because it is not centrally located in the county.
Second District Commissioner Jimmy Midget offered a second to Johnson’s motion amending Norris’ motion. The vote was 10-4 on the amendment to offer the Cherry Hill Community Center instead of the room at the County Complex.
The motion as amended was adopted 13-1. Although a few commissioners still oppose the Cherry Hill Community Center as a suitable location, ll but one voted in favor of the motion as amended supporting the county’s effort to provide space to DCS.
Seventh District Commissioner Larry Summers asked County Mayor Stribling to look into the possibility of grant funding or other resources that could be used to help finish the vacant room at the county complex “to make it presentable and safe” so that it might be used.