Court and Family Services
The Court & Family Services Division oversees the educational advocacy unit, Guardian ad Litem unit, citizen review panel, mediation program. These programs provide and manage services to qualifying children and families in support of the Court’s mission to protect children and the community, rehabilitate children, and restore families.
The Mission of the Division of Court and Family Services is to promote and provide for the safety, well-being, and permanence of children and their families.
The Division provides and manages services to qualifying children and families in support of Fulton County Juvenile Court’s mission.
Citizen Review Panel
The Citizen Review Panel program utilizes volunteers to conduct legally mandated reviews of the status and welfare of children placed by the Juvenile Court into the legal custody of the Fulton County Department of Family and Children Services (DFCS) to ensure that reasonable efforts are being made to reunify the family or otherwise provide permanency for a child. The program uses trained volunteers to staff panels which meet regularly to review cases and to ensure that all case plans are appropriate for the family’s needs.
To download the application to become a volunteer for the Citizen Review Panel, click here.
The Mediation Program is an integral part of Probation Diversion, Delinquency, and Dependency cases. 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 disagreement.
If an agreement is reached between the parties, the agreement is signed by a Juvenile Court Judge and becomes an Order of the Court.
Guardian Ad Litem Unit (GAL)
A Guardian ad Litem (GAL) is a court-appointed staff member who advocates for the best interests of a child in a legal case. The GAL investigates the child’s situation, gathers information, and makes recommendations to the court. The GAL is an independent voice for the child and is not aligned with either parent or the state.
A GAL is empowered to investigate the child’s background, living conditions and family relationships to make a recommendation to the court as to what would be in the best interests of the child’s placement, visitation and other matters before the court.
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 a team of GALs on staff who are dedicated to advocating for children. The court also appoints Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), who are trained volunteers, to represent the best interests of the child.
Title 15 of the Official Code of Georgia requires that the court appoint a Guardian ad Litem (GAL) for all dependent children, O.C.G.A. § 15-11-104, and in certain circumstances for delinquent children, O.C.G.A. § 15-11-476, and Children in Need of Services (CHINS), O.C.G.A. § 15-11-402.
If you are involved in a legal case involving a child, you may be able to request that a GAL be appointed to represent the child’s interests. To learn more about the GAL program in Fulton County, please contact the Juvenile Court.
Education Advocacy Program
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 Unit helps students involved with the juvenile justice system get the special education services they need to succeed in school and reduce recidivism.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) guarantees that all students with disabilities, including those who have been suspended or expelled, are entitled to special education and related services. Our educational advocates represent court-involved youth in all school-related infractions and enrollment issues to prevent them from being expelled from the public school system.
We also assist in overturning expulsions that are the result of school systems failing to uphold the “Child Find Requirement” of IDEA (2004). This requirement states that school districts are obligated to identify, locate, and evaluate all children with disabilities, regardless of the severity of their disabilities.
The Education Advocates work diligently to:
2.Increase academic success for youth associated with Fulton Juvenile Court,
3.Educate parents and the community on laws related to public education, and
4.Advise parents about services, programs and accommodations that meet their child’s needs.