Children's Freedom Initiative (CFI)

The Children’s Freedom Initiative (CFI) is a collaborative effort to ensure that children who live in facilities are given the chance to live with permanent, loving families. We are a coalition of advocates dedicated to creating a Georgia in which no child resides in a facility.

The CFI is supported by the Georgia Developmental Disabilities Network, which receives funding from the Administration on Developmental Disabilities, and includes the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities (GCDD), the Institute on Human Development and Disability at the University of Georgia (IHDD), the Georgia Advocacy Office (GAO) and the Center for Leadership in Disability at Georgia State University (CLD).

Children's Freedome Initiative logoThe CFI continues to educate families about resources available for children so that they can remain at home or in the community, even when their home of origin is no longer an option. The CFI also continues to advocate for youth to transition from facilities into homes in the community.

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 CFI insists 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.
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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 state 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.

Joe Serra, an advocate with the Georgia Advocacy Office, is the lead contact person for the Children’s Freedom Initiative. You may reach him at or call 404-885-1234.  For more information on CFI, visit their website at: