Court & Family Services
| CHINS Unit |
The Court & Family Services Division oversees the Educational Advocate, the Citizen Review Panel and the Mediation Program. Combined, the division provides and manages services to qualifying children and families in support of Juvenile Court’s mission.
For inquiries regarding the Court & Family Services Division, please contact:
Director of Court & Family Services
p: 404.613.4631 | e: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Citizen Review Panel program utilizes volunteers to conduct legally mandated reviews of the status and welfare of children placed by the Juvenile Court in the legal custody of the Fulton County Department of Family and Children Services to ensure that reasonable efforts are being made to reunify the family or otherwise provide permanency for a child. The program uses volunteers to staff panels which meet periodically to review cases and to ensure that all case plans are appropriate for the family’s needs.
For inquiries regarding the Citizen Review Panel, please contact:
Citizen Review Panel Administrator
p: 404.613.4667 | e: email@example.com
Recent studies indicate that youth with undiagnosed and unmet special education needs are disproportionately represented in juvenile courts and secure juvenile facilities. The Education Advocacy Program works to reduce recidivism and increase academic success by working to ensure that students involved with the juvenile justice system are receiving the special education services afforded to them under the law. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) provides that children with educational deficiencies be provided special education and other related services including those children who have been suspended or expelled from school. The educational advocate represents children in all school related infractions and prevents the growing expulsion of children from the public school system.
The educational advocate assists in overturning expulsions derived from the school systems failure to uphold the “Child Find Requirement” of IDEA (2004) which states that: School districts are obligated to identify, locate and evaluate all children with disabilities, regardless of the severity of their disabilities. The educational advocate assists with special needs cases where children have been pressured into withdrawing from school for various legally defensible reasons. Some of these students are often mildly intellectually disabled /mildly mentally retarded and have never been considered for alternative assessments or to meet alternative requirements for gaining a HS diploma (formerly known as a special education diploma or IEP diploma).
A panel of juvenile court staff and child welfare experts meet with parents and children who are alleged to have violated the Georgia Compulsory School Attendance Law. The school social workers from the Atlanta Public School and Fulton County School Systems refer the families to the program after a child has received 10 unexcused absences. The parties will discuss the attendance issues, identify the problems causing the absenteeism and create a plan to address the child’s needs, parent’s and school’s role in achieving the outlined goal of eliminating future truant behavior. All parties including the parent/guardian, child, school and court will sign an attendance contract that details what each party agrees to do to further the objectives of the attendance plan. The agreement also acknowledges the potential consequences for failure to cooperate or comply with the recommended services.
Title 15 of the Official Code of Georgia requires that the court appoint a guardian ad litem (GAL) for all dependent children, and in certain circumstances for delinquent children and children in need of services (CHINS). The court’s GALs advocate for a child’s best interest and provide written reports with recommendations to the court and parties. Factors determining what is in a child’s best interest are statutory and are addressed in the court report. Records and information acquired by the GAL during the course of their appointment are confidential and are not disclosed except by order of the court. The Fulton County Juvenile Court has GAL’s on staff and additionally appoints CASA and other trained volunteers to serve as GAL’s.
The Mediation Program is an integral part of both the Probation Division and the dependency unit. Mediation is used to divert cases from the court that are more appropriately resolved by collaborating with the parties involved. Mediation fosters an environment where the child is directly accountable for his or her actions, addresses the victim’s needs, and models conflict resolution techniques for children and their families. Mediation allows the parties to meet in a private setting where a neutral person, the mediator, helps them to work out a solution to their problems.
If an agreement is reached between the parties, the agreement is signed by a Juvenile Court Judge and becomes an order of the Court.