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"Longing for Home" Video
"Matthew Harp Keynote Speech" Video
Nola and Jeff with their son Zach who lives in a nursing facility in Alabama.
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What makes a good home for a child?
Safe, stable place
Loving, committed family
Sense of inclusion, belonging
Space for privacy, play, learning
Children have choices
Children have freedom to explore
Children are surrounded by opportunities
Children receive affection, hugs, kisses
Children learn boundaries, values, morals
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Who we are:
The Children’s Freedom Initiative (CFI) is a collaborative effort of:
  • The Georgia Advocacy Office
  • The Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities
  • The Institute on Human Development and Disability
  • The Center for Leadership in Disability
  • The Statewide Independent Living Council
  • People First of Georgia
Our Mission:
To prevent children from going into institutions or facilities and to ensure permanent, loving homes for all children residing in congregate facilities.
The Children’s Freedom Initiative plans to reach this goal through legislation, litigation, coalition building, telling children’s stories, elevating the issue, and requesting resource allocation in the budgets of various departments.
The CFIinsists that children with disabilities grow up in permanent, loving homes, not in nursing facilities, institutions, or other congregate care facilities. It is unacceptable that over 100 children with disabilities currently live in facilities in Georgia. The CFI aims to bring all these children home and ensure that no child is placed in a facility in the future.
In the spring of 2005, the Georgia General Assembly passed House Resolution 633 (HR633), a resolution drafted by CFI. The resolution urged the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities (DBHDD), the Department of Human Services (DHS), the Department of Community Health (DCH), the Department of Education (DOE), the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ), and the Department of Labor (DOL) to develop a plan to identify, assess, and plan appropriate community supports for individuals under the age of 22 who live in nursing facilities, intermediate care facilities (ICF/MR) and private and public hospitals. 
The CFI held a summit in August 2005 to kick off the initiative. At the summit, parents, advocates and policy-makers from across the Childrens Freedom Initiative Summitstate came together to emphasize the need for a coordinated effort to ensure that children no longer grow up in facilities (link to one page summit document here). During the two-day summit, families, parents, and young people told their stories of the heartache, deprivation, and despair that accompanied the institutional response to their requests for assistance.
In March 2006, the CFI held a hearing in front of the Georgia House of Representatives’ Children and Youth Committee. Legislators learned that children with disabilities continue to grow up in congregated, segregated facilities, and families often have few choices because of the lack of resources.
Currently, the CFI is urging the Departments named above to plan for the transition of young people (18-21) out of the foster care system into the adult support system. Our goal is to ensure that children who have lived in foster care homes as children are not at risk of placement in a nursing facility as adults. A coalition representing multiple agencies is meeting to determine a systematic and seamless process for transitioning children from the foster care system to the adult system with funding and supports.   
In 2009, the CFI began working with Georgia families whose children are in facilities outside the state. The CFI hosted a study tour for young adults living in facilities and for families of children living in out of state facilities in May 2010. The study tour participants visited three homes demonstrating the possibilities for young adults and children living in communities with appropriate supports. The event is featured on NPR in a story by Joe Shapiro, airing in November 2010. The CFI plans to identify other children living in pediatric nursing facilities across the nation and to reach out to Georgia families in hopes of bringing these children home.

Fall, 2004: Federal Developmental Disabilities partners joined to create the Children’s Freedom Initiative and designate its purpose

March, 2005: The Georgia General Assembly passed House Resolution 633 urging state departments to work together to develop a plan to transition children out of facilities

August, 2005: The Children’s Freedom Initiative Summit invited all interested parties to share insights and knowledge of what works when transitioning children out of facilities.

March, 2006:   CFI representatives presented an update on the status of the CFI at a Legislative Hearing of the Children and Youth committee of the Georgia House of Representatives.

May, 2006: The CFI Oversight Committee convened to review HR 633

June, 2006: Nancy Rosenau of Every Child, Inc. consulted with CFI leadership

June, 2007: Wall Street Journal published “Babes Among Elders: Nursing Home Kids” describing children who grow up in nursing homes and featuring the work of the CFI.

June, 2008: Georgia Court Ruled that Medicaid must provide prescribed services to children

August, 2008: CFI delivered a letter to the Speaker of the House describing the work of the initiative.

November, 2009: CFI began work with families who have children placed in nursing facilities out of state in Alabama, with the help of Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program.  

May, 2010: CFI members conducted a study tour for individuals and families who have children living in facilities so families could see children successfully living at home with appropriate supports.  

August, 2010: CFI members met with Department of Human Services & Office of Child Advocate about youth transitioning out of foster care

October, 2010:   Settlement in US. v. GA. requires Georgia to move people with disabilities out of state hospitals

Katie Chandler, an advocate with the Georgia Advocacy Office, is the lead contact person for the Children’s Freedom Initiative. You may reach her at (404) 885-1234.