In Georgia, the Juvenile Courts have jurisdiction to hear matters of both Dependency and Termination. In a Dependency case, the Department of Family and Children's Services (DFCS) or, sometimes, a private individual, alleges that a child is deprived by his or her parents. There are a myriad of different reasons that Dependency is alleged, but some of the more common ones are incarceration of a parent, alleged neglect or abuse of a child, drug or alcohol abuse by a parent, or a general chronic inability of a parent to care properly for a child.
When dependency actions are filed, whether by the State or by private individuals, the parents have a right to have the matter heard by a judge. If a judge makes a finding that a child is dependent, then the next step is to determine where the child will reside while the parent works to cure the dependency (i.e. remedy the issues that gave rise to the action). The Juvenile Court (and DFCS if it is involved) has an obligation to at least make an effort to place a child with family. Sometimes, even in the face of a dependency action, children can be returned to a parent who is working a case plan. If returning the child to a parent or relative is not an option, then foster care is sometimes the only option.
When a child remains in a dependent state for an extended period of time and the parents fail to make progress towards remedying the problem, a Petition for Termination of Parental Rights might be filed. A Petition to Terminate Parental Rights requests an extreme remedy - it asks that the Court forever sever the parent-child relationship. Oftentimes, when parental rights are terminated, children are in foster homes that are pre-adoptive.
At the Law Offices of Gina Smalley, we have worked cases on both sides of Dependency actions and Terminations of Parental Rights. We have fought for parents whose rights are in jeopardy and we have fought beside relatives or fictive kin of children who have been deprived by their natural parents.
Whether you believe that a child is being deprived and wish to file an action against the parents or you are a parent against whom such an action has been brought, The Law Offices of Gina Smalley can help. With years of Juvenile Court experience, we know how to fight for the rights of children, their parents, and their caregivers.
If you believe that a child is in immediate danger, please contact local law enforcement.