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

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.

Nancee Tomlinson’s Books Featured

Georgia State University School of Law’s Alumni Magazine featured Success in Dependency Court and Caregiver’s Compass in the Fall 2017 edition. What an honor and privilege to be featured by my alma mater.

Not Your Average Fairy Tale

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.

Buy it here

(c) Nancee Tomlinson 2017

What is the Child Abuse Registry in Georgia? Why worry?

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? 2020 Child Abuse Registry Update

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.

Being on the child abuse registry could impact licensing by the State for those involved with and planning to work with children.
Hiring an attorney and fighting the Child Abuse Registry is important and time sensitive. Once the deadline to request a hearing has expired your ability to be removed will be gone.
Having an attorney with experience to handle child abuse registry cases makes a difference.
Call Nancee Tomlinson at 706-200-1777