DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. - Some Democratic lawmakers called for change Thursday after the tragic death of a boy, allegedly at the hands of his adoptive father.
DeKalb Police arrested Leon Williams, 43, and charged him with murdering his son, Kentae Williams, 10. According to investigators, Williams beat his son with a belt, poured hot water on his feet and drowned him in the family's bathtub.
State Representative Erica Thomas, D-Austell, went through the foster care system and said she believes the state can do more to protect its children.
"We need to make sure that we do whatever it takes to improve the system, especially when it comes to adoptive services," said Thomas.
Earlier this week, Governor Nathan Deal signed a budget that puts in place raises for the caseworkers in the Division of Family and Children Services at an average of 19 percent. In Georgia, caseworkers have an average starting salary of $28,000, according to DFCS.
Thomas, however, believes the state can do more.
"We need to make sure that we're supporting the people that are supporting our children--24 hours a day," Rep. Thomas said.
Both Thomas and Rep. Keisha Waites, D-Atlanta, have pledged to work with DFCS as they investigate what went wrong.
Ashley Fielding Cooper, director of legislative affairs and communications for the Georgia Department of Human Services released the following statement on Thursday to FOX 5 News:
"The details that have been released about the death of Kentae Williams are heartbreaking, and are made even more distressing as the parent who was supposed to protect him from harm is charged with his murder," "The Division’s number one priority is the safety of children in the state of Georgia. The Division is conducting a thorough review of any involvement with Kentae’s family to ensure practice accurately reflected policy and also to ensure the policies we have in place are sufficient to protect children from harm.
“Such a review is consistent with any instance where a child who was previously involved in the state’s child welfare system dies or is seriously injured.
“We are grateful for the efforts of Rep. Erica Thomas and Rep. Keisha Waites to remind the public that protecting children is the responsibility of all Georgians and are appreciative for their support, as well as that of other members of the General Assembly, who have pushed measures to strengthen Georgia’s child welfare system by reducing caseload sizes and increasing caseworker pay.”
Thomas and Waites also encourage anyone who believes a child may be in danger to call the state's Child Protective Services call center at 1-855-GA-CHILD (1-855-422-4453).