Better Questions is available on amazon. Click here for a link to the book.
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.
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
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 REGISTRY – NEW 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
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
I’ve put together a simplified timeline for juvenile court. The internal workings of juvenile court require more explanation. This timeline is an initial approach for the uninitiated attorney.