CLE on Confronting Forensic Interviews

Based on the book, Better Questions, GACDL presents Don’t Fear the Forensic Interview. July 16, 2021 at noon, I will be teaching about how to confront the forensic interview. Click here to sign up.

Better Questions is available on amazon. Click here for a link to the book.

Confronting Forensic Interviews

In criminal trials and dependency cases, a forensic interview is the government’s best piece of evidence. An interview that a defense attorney can’t directly confront.

Learn how to confront a forensic with a basic understanding of what is expected and how to discern the points to challenge.

Better Questions

Designed for busy lawyers seeking a better understanding of the forensic interview process, Better Questions will provide a foundational understanding of forensic interviews and strategies for confronting the forensic interviewer in the most challenging cases we face. Better Questions provides a framework for evaluating forensic interviews and cross-examining the interviewers. This book presents an overview for a practicing attorney preparing for trial. If you are looking for a thorough and exhaustive discussion of forensic interviewing and the science which underpins it, this is not the book for you. Demystifying the protocol of the forensic interview, Better Questions supplies a foundation for a sifting examination and confrontation at trial.

Child Abuse Registry is Dead, DFCS “Registry”Lives

The Georgia Legislature created the now dead Child Abuse Registry. This registry prevented individuals “substantiated” to have committed child abuse from obtaining work with children. 

In the COVID delayed 2020 Legislative Session, the Child Abuse Registry was eliminated. However, access to DFCS’s list of “substantiation” of child abuse is still available through some background checks by the Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning (DECAL) as well as the Georgia Department of Education. O.C.G.A. § 49-5-41(c)(11).

What does this mean?

The important word here is substantiation. Substantiation is a term used within DFCS to label a person whom DFCS believes based on their internal investigation without input, argument, or outside involvement to be a child abuser. If that person is a parent and/or guardian, that person will have the court processes to fight the allegations.

If however that person is not a parent and/or caregiver with the right to due process in juvenile court, that person will receive a notice in the mail with certain deadlines and appeal processes. 

A finding of substantiation that is supported by a court finding of Dependency or an unrefuted, unappealled finding of substantiation may impact potential employment in jobs with children when the employers are required to check backgrounds through DECAL or the Department of Education.

A non-caregiver who receives the paperwork declaring substantiation and outlining the appeal process should carefully consider whether the non-caregiver wishes to appeal the finding. There is a three level appeal process.

A person on listed as substantiated on a background check through DECAL or Department of Education can be barred from some types of employment.

© Nancee Tomlinson 2021

New Edit: Success in Dependency Court 2020

The Georgia legislature changed the Child Abuse Registry in 2019. The 2020 update to Success includes those changes and others. Parents fighting DFCS need guidance to get through the process successfully.

Check it out on Amazon.com

Victory in Child Abuse Registry Court

Reversal means removal from Registry

Child Abuse Registry Court is closed. Can’t disclose details. Client challenges placement of the registry and won. The registry could have impacted the client’s ability to work and obtain a license from the state. The arbitrary assignment of individuals to the registry is unfair and needs to be challenged.

Checkout the 2020 Changes to the Child Abuse Registry.

Georgia Child Abuse Registry 2020 Update

PLACEMENT ON REGISTRY

Beginning January 1, 2020

Upon a finding by CPS that an investigation into child abuse is substantiated, the investigator will notify Division of Family and Children Services that the investigation is substantiated. DFCS will send notice to the individual substantiated of child abuse of the intent to place that person on the registry. 

That individual will have 30 days to respond in writing to request a hearing on the matter. A person accused of child abuse has the right to challenge these allegations and require that DFCS prove to an administrative law judge by a preponderance of evidence that the abuse occurred at the hand/act of the individual. 

There is the right to appeal to Superior Court from the administrative court. Constitutional rights should be preserved at the administrative level by motion.

If the individual accused of child abuse fails to request the hearing within 30 days, then the time to challenge is expired and no other appeal is available. The individual will be placed on the child abuse registry along with the report.

Up until December 31, 2019

 DFCS automatically places any substantiated investigation and any parent whose child is adjudicated dependent on the Georgia Child Abuse Registry. What does that mean in real terms for real people? What’s the danger?

The Child Abuse Registry is relatively new, no one can predict what the State will do with it. Can the State change the uses? Modify it? Who knows what changes will come. Fighting placement on the child abuse registry when you receive notice is your only opportunity to challenge placement on the registry.

DFCS, the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services, investigates allegations of child abuse. They must determine whether to substantiate

 an allegation of child abuse. According to the DFCS website, the definition of a substantiated allegation of abuse is

An investigation disposition by a CPS investigator concludes, based on a preponderance of evidence collected, that the allegation of maltreatment as defined by state law and CPS procedure requirements is true.

The decision of DFCS about what a preponderance of evidence means is not the final answer though.

Two different things happen as a result of a substantiated DFCS investigation. One, DFCS becomes involved with the family in which the abuse is said to have occurred. This aspect is covered in the rest of this book. The second thing is that DFCS generates a report and places the alleged abusive person on the state’s Child Abuse Registry.

REMOVAL FROM REGISTRYNEW OPTION

When an individual’s name has been on the registry three (3) years, that person may request that DFCS remove them from the registry. The Georgia law refers this as expungement. The request must be in writing. The Office of State Administrative Hearings will schedule a hearing to consider:

(1) the initial allegations of abuse, 

(2) the relative seriousness of those initial charges, 

(3) the criminal history of the individual, 

(4) whether the individual poses a risk to the child in the initial investigation, 

(5) whether the individual poses a risk to the community, 

(6) whether the inclusion on the list impacted employment and licensure opportunities of the individual, 

(7) any treatment, training, education, and/or rehabilitation obtained by the individuals, and

(8) whatever other factors deemed important by the Court. The decision may be appealed.

The law does exclude some individuals from removal: 

  • If the DFCS/CPS Juvenile Court case which placed the individual on the registry is still open;
  • If the act that caused the person to be placed on the registry resulted in the death of a child;
  • If the individual’s parental rights have been terminated, voluntarily or involuntarily due to the incident that placed the individual on the registry.

© Nancee Tomlinson 2020

Advocacy Tools

As an advocate for parents, I found myself wishing I had been able to advise about the best strategy for dealing with the State. The pressure of never-ending court appearances and very little time to address the factors beyond immediate concerns caused me to wonder how this guidance could be communicated.
Finally, I compiled that information in a book. I provide it to my clients. Success in Dependency Court gives parents the time to read and process the information beyond the pressure cooker of court.
Check it out.

Success in Dependency Court 2018 Update

Success in Dependency Court has been updated. This volume includes sections on Parental Rights, on the Child Abuse Registry, discusses the Court’s expectations, and the final section of forms to help parents throughout the case. Check it out on amazon.com paperback or ebook.

Author Nancee Tomlinson works to improve and update Success to help parents struggling to regain custody of their children. Plans are in the works for an audio version as well as a Spanish language publication.

Child Abuse Registry: Why Fight? Victory Without a Contested Hearing in 20 minutes.

2020 Update to Georgia Child Abuse Registry law. Case closed in 20 minutes before the judge. A technical discrepancy created an issue which got a Child Abuse Registry (CAR) hearing ended in less than 20 minutes from roll call to decision. Technical discrepancies occur frequently.

That doesn’t account for the couple of hours spent reviewing, preparing, and writing. But preparation and experience create better opportunities.

Anyone who receives a notice needs to fight that placement.

Receiving a Notice for the Child Abuse Registry is intimidating and scary. DFCS/ Department of Human Services must prove the parts of the “substantiation.” Knowing how to fight the allegations is important.

The MOST IMPORTANT STEP is filing the request for a hearing. If you fail to request a hearing, nothing can be done. Requesting a hearing is critical.

Once the hearing is requested, all manner of things can happen, technicalities can create a reversal. Attorneys who practice in Child Abuse Registry cases know the ins and outs of how these cases work. Finding the weaknesses in these cases, which are new and unique, requires time but in the end hiring attorney makes a difference.

Filing for the hearing is the most important step.

© Nancee Tomlinson 2018dsc00324

Continue reading Child Abuse Registry: Why Fight? Victory Without a Contested Hearing in 20 minutes.