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.
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.
As a society, media feed us a narrative which spins a story of the villainous parents whose children are rescued by the government, by DFCS. The media never see the background, the person for whom perhaps compassion might inure. No, the outliers, the anomalies grab headlines.
We devour media coverage. How is it that we can shape and change this narrative? How can we show that parents, and foster parents, show up as the heroes most of the time? We can share the stories and highlight what parents’ attorneys see every day but the press ignore. The media overlook these heartwarming stories because no headlines in the pop culture villain transformed into hero overcoming a hard time.
A reporter writing a profile on my books was surprised to hear that I believe parents in Dependency Court, by and large, truly love their children. Success in Dependency Court comes from my sincere desire to guide parents entangled in the court system to victory.
The book started as a two page letter to Bethany, an appointed client. She worked a regular shift at a fast food restaurant. I could usually find her there, even when she missed court. She lived her life, at that point, with no phone and, I hoped, couch-surfing. DFCS “removed,” the legal term for took, her very young child. Everyday away from this child was a substantial proportion of that child’s life and diminished her bond with this beloved child.
Her life revealed the complementary issues of domestic disharmony, likely physical abuse, and substance abuse, probably addiction. As a former domestic violence prosecutor, the explanations and excuses rang familiar. She fit the classic pattern.
I believed then and believe to this day that parents love their children. Some parents just haven’t acquired the tools, the skills, and didn’t have the upbringing to be effective parents without help. Add in a parent’s own undiagnosed and/or untreated issues-chaos follows.
As my appointment ended when the Court entered a disposition, I wanted to help Bethany understand, to empower her. The case was not hopeless at that point, but she needed to act. I wrote her a two page letter. That letter became a small booklet. My partner kindly directed me to be less judgmental and more proactive. He was of course right. Finally, Success in Dependency Court is in print.
In the almost 17 years I’ve worked as an attorney, parents are not usually the villains. Parents in Dependency Court have the same problem that we all have: changing the story in our minds about who we are and what type of parent, person we are. When the government says “you’re not parenting properly,” it takes time and patience to shepherd parents through the process.
Success in Dependency Court supplements the experts and therapists with the unwritten rules of successfully navigating the Court system.
(c) Nancee Tomlinson 2017
DFCS automatically places any substantiated investigation 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 so new, such a recent creation, 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 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. (DFCS “what does substantiate mean?“)
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 where the abuse is said to have occurred. This aspect is covered in another blog post. The second thing: DFCS generates a report and places the alleged abusive person on the state’s Child Abuse Registry.
The Georgia Legislature created the Child Abuse Registry. The alleged abusive person will receive notice by certified mail of their placement on the registry and must request a hearing within 10 days of receiving the notice.
If a hearing is requested, then an administrative law judge (not the juvenile court judge) will decide whether a preponderance of evidence exists for the alleged abusive person to remain on the list. The hearing requires that DFCS (the respondent) prove by a preponderance of evidence why the alleged abusive person should remain on the registry. The Petitioner (the alleged abusive person) or the Petitioner’s attorney will fight to prevent DFCS from establishing the preponderance of evidence using the well known court rules and rules of evidence.
The legislature restricted who can see the Child Abuse Registry, referred to as CAR. According to Georgia law OCGA 49-5-185, access is limited to, an abuse investigator for purposes of an investigation only, government agencies of any state which provide professional licenses to individuals who work with children or around children, and an to Court Appointed Special Advocate programs for screening volunteers.
© Nancee Tomlinson 2017
I wanted to provide my clients, parents with cases in Juvenile/Dependency Court cases with advice. Across the board, these parents failed to understand the basics of how to finish a case plan, at times even how to start. Success started as a two page letter to a young mother who just couldn’t get it together. Now, the book is 100+ pages with places to record and track those bits of information parents need to know.
Clients, I’ve found, fail to shift their angst toward DFCS after the dependency finding. Creating the strategy that beating DFCS at their own game and learning a new set of rules provides the client with a new focus for their energy. Success is a blueprint to answer the questions and frustrations clients have but are unable to articulate as questions.
The chapters, summarized below with a quick reminder section, provide that basic life skills advice from the perspective of the Court system. Lessons that are hard to remember to provide to a client but frequently appear as questions, frustrations, or concerns during periodic reviews with the Court.
Providing a client a means to track all those calls to DFCS, to service providers. Success contains 20 pages of contact logs for clients to create a habit to keep track and prove that DFCS isn’t responding.
Goals of a case plan, itemized in a chart don’t always make sense to a client. Identifying the goal, writing it down, breaking the goal into the necessary parts, all this will make the case plan accessible and achievable.
Keeping track of the who and the how, that can be a challenge. Case managers change over time. Service providers, schools, lawyer. Having on place to store all of this information could mean the difference in accomplishing goals more quickly.
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