Aspirational Guidlines For Georgia’s Parent Attorney in child Deprivation Cases This Includes Public Defenders.

If you as a parent are told by your attorney even if he/she is a public defender that they cannot attend your panel review with you and that your case with them is closed because you are working a case plan. It is a lie. The information below was put out in 2002 by the Chief Justice of Georgia. That attorney is supposed to be involved with every aspect of the case . Print this off and use it . This is currently happening in Jackson County Ga. The parent goes in front of a panel in May and her attorney said he couldn’t be there. That is a lie. When he was called on it he said the case was closed because she was on a case plan that again is a lie. He has a responsiblity to repesent her – He knows she can’t afford an attorney and he knows that she will believe anything he tells her.

Guidelines for Georgia’s Parent Attorney in Child Deprivation Cases
January 2002
Letter from the Chief Justice

To all Parent Attorneys in Child Deprivation Cases:

Attorneys who represent parents of children in deprivation cases have a difficult charge: to defend the civil rights of a parent accused of child abuse or neglect. Yet, their role is essential to our system. Parent attorneys have an opportunity to ensure that the integrity of a family is protected from unnecessary intervention as well as securing adequate services to parents working to reunite with their children.

We must work together as a profession to make sure that quality of counsel and resources match the need of appointment of counsel for parents in child deprivation cases. In working toward that effort and in consultation with attorneys from the American Bar Association, a select group of attorneys and the Georgia Indigent Defense Counsel have developed and published “Guidelines for Georgia’s Parent Attorney in Child Deprivation Cases.”

The authors of this document are to be commended for their efforts to improve the process for child abuse and neglect cases. It is important that their efforts are honored by striving to meet these guidelines. I extend my appreciation to all of you for your dedication in making our system work, and I support your efforts to improve the work you do.


Norman Fletcher


Development Team

These aspirational guidelines were developed on March 30 and 31, 2001, by the following attorneys attending a workshop sponsored by the Supreme Court of Georgia Child Placement Project and the Georgia Indigent Defense Council (GIDC) Juvenile Advocacy Division.

Mr. B. Samuel Engram, Jr, Albany — Dougherty Judicial Circuit
Mr. Mike Randolph, Macon — Macon Judicial Circuit
Mr. Rick Waller, Macon — Macon Judicial Circuit
Ms. Barbara Doster Pruitt, Columbus — Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit
Ms Lytia Geiger Brown, Atlanta — Atlanta Judicial Circuit
Ms. Lisa Lott, Athens — Western Judicial Circuit
Mr. Shawn Patrick Hammond, Augusta — Augusta Judicial Circuit
Mr. Bill Newton, III, Rome — Rome Judicial Circuit
Ms. Victoria Embs, Douglasville — Douglas Judicial Circuit
Ms. Robin Shipp-Matos, Macon — Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit

This workshop was facilitated by Susan Teaster and Trish McCann of the GIDC Juvenile Advocacy Division and Mimi Laver and Eva Klain of the National Child Welfare Resource Center on Legal and Judicial Issues at the American Bar Association Center. Ms. Teaster, Ms. McCann and Michelle Barclay of the Child Placement Project compiled and edited this document.

Special thanks go to the staff of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, and Mimi Laver and Eva Klain of the National Child Welfare Resource Center on Legal and Judicial Issues at the American Bar Association Center on Children and the Law who gave so generously of their time and knowledge to Georgia.


Ten attorneys who represent parents in juvenile court were brought together for a two day workshop to develop guidelines for child deprivation and termination of parental rights cases. This brief manual was developed from that workshop and was substantially guided by faculty from the American Bar Association Center on Children and the Law. The workshop and manual development were funded by the Supreme Court of Georgia Child Placement Project. These guidelines are non-mandatory and aspirational, yet much thought and debate went into their formation. Attorneys representing parents are urged to read and consider these guidelines for deprivation and termination cases. While every deprivation is important, these guidelines were primarily developed for the cases where the Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS) has taken the child into custody.

The Need for Guidelines

Practice in juvenile deprivation cases is unique and challenging, requiring continual training to assure the best legal representation of clients. At stake for children is their liberty, their right to membership in their family of origin, and their right to be safe, healthy and protected. At stake for parents is their right to raise their children as they think best without state interference, and, ultimately, the absolute and final termination of their parental rights. The participation of counsel on behalf of all parties subject to juvenile proceedings is essential to the administration of justice and to the fair and accurate resolution of issues at all stages of those proceedings. The parent’s attorney plays a crucial role in the processing of these cases which have a direct impact on the lives of families.
As a result of recent changes in federal and state law, child deprivation cases are more complex, requiring more hearings and more people. In 1995, the Supreme Court of Georgia began a study to get a statewide view of how child deprivation cases are processed. The study revealed that the process of deprivation cases differs dramatically across the state. Some of the interviews and survey results stated that the process is driven by the strongest personality in the court. Parent’s attorneys expressed frustration about the lack of current information on practice to provide a context in which they can evaluate and improve their own practice.
When information on diverse practices is shared, the best of each style can be incorporated into practice in all jurisdictions. Consistency in the process of deprivation cases is more likely to lead to consistent results, ensuring that all juvenile court participants across the state will be treated similarly and can hold the same expectations about juvenile court.

Mission Statement

To recognize the importance of representation of parents and identify systemic problems within the juvenile court through the development of aspirational guidelines, and to assist attorneys representing parents throughout Georgia in improving the quality of their representation in juvenile court, which will ultimately lead to better outcomes for families in the child welfare system.


General Issues

Specific guidelines were developed for each stage of a child deprivation hearing. Additionally, the participants identified two main areas in which Georgia should focus on supporting and improving the role of the attorneys representing parents.

The Two Main Areas of Focus for the Georgia Guidelines

• Ensuring that parents receive quality representation at each stage of the proceedings, recognizing the impact of inadequate resources and unmanageable caseloads.

• Ensuring the best outcomes for parents and children with the goal of keeping “families” together whenever possible and appropriate.


Prerequisites for Representation

Before practicing in juvenile court, counsel should be proficient in applicable substantive and procedural Georgia juvenile law and should have appropriate experience, skill and training necessary to represent parents. It may be appropriate to work with a mentor before handling deprivation cases. At a minimum, counsel should observe at least one hearing before accepting an appointment or undertaking representation. Additionally, counsel should be knowledgeable of the following:
• DFCS policies and procedures;
• Federal regulations relating to DFCS and foster care;
• Services available to children and parents through the juvenile court and community;
• Basic child development;
• Adoption process/benefits available;
• Substance abuse, addiction and recovery stages;
• The causes and available treat-ment for child abuse and neglect;
• Effective communication skills to communicate with child witnesses.

General Responsibilities

• Counsel should act in a professional manner in zealously advocating the client’s position;
• Counsel should not represent two or more clients who are parties to the same or consolidated juvenile deprivation cases unless it is clear that there is no conflict of interest between the parties and the parties have provided informed consent;
• Counsel should avoid represent-
ing both parents in deprivation cases and should never represent both parents in cases that involve allegations of sexual, physical or emotional abuse, or when the interests of the parents may be adverse;
• Counsel shall, in a timely manner, initiate and answer correspondence and telephone calls which are necessary to the effective representation of the client;
• Counsel shall avoid ex parte communication regarding pending cases with the judicial office before whom the case is pending;
• Counsel is bound by and should advocate for the client’s definition of his or her best interests, and may not substitute counsel’s judgment for the client’s, nor ignore the client’s wishes because they are perceived not to be in the best interests of the child;
• Counsel should keep a file and encourage the client to keep a file with the following:

•all pleadings,
•interview notes,
•hearing notes,
•copies of all exhibits submitted at hearings or in the court,
•copies of all court orders,
•copies of the home study, case plans, health and psychological reports, CASA reports, citizen panel findings and recommendations and school reports,
•a calendar with pertinent upcoming dates.

Appointment of Counsel
Delays in the appointment of an attorney should be avoided, as they delay permanency for the child. Notice given to the parents should include the right to an attorney at all hearings and information on how an attorney can be appointed to represent them. Parents should be appointed an attorney prior to the 72 hour hearing, but not later than at the shelter care hearing. Court staff should notify attorneys of the appointment immediately and any barriers to representation should be eliminated. The length of the appointment should also be specified.


The complaint is the first document filed with the court to initiate a deprivation case. The complaint will allege abuse or neglect of a child or children. It is generally filed by a Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS) caseworker, although complaints may be filed by any person against a child’s primary caretaker. While attorneys for parents are not always appointed or retained at the complaint stage, courts are encouraged to appoint attorneys as early as possible to ensure adequate representation. At the complaint stage counsel should:

•Receive copies of the complaint/petition as early as possible;
•Contact the client to review the complaint, if possible;
•Interview the client and explain the juvenile court process;
•Interview any other necessary parties or potential witnesses;
•Contact police or any responsible law enforcement agency and obtain copies of any reports of any incident leading to the removal of the child;
•Identify parties who should be served;
•Identify alternative placements and services needed for the parent or child;
•Read any available reports (medical, school and psychological);
•Prepare for the 72 hour hearing.
•Contact the CASA or GAL to collaborate;
•Communicate with the SAAG and caseworker;
•Investigate and identify preventive services and diversion options;
•Look for a prior DFCS record.
72-Hour Hearing
This emergency hearing, also called a shelter care hearing, is held within 72 hours of a child’s removal from the home. It is critical that this hearing be timely and thorough. Time is of the essence in child abuse and neglect cases, and any opportunity to prevent a child’s case from continuing its path into the system should be seized. Once a child is removed from the home, it becomes more difficult to reunite the family. Therefore, all guidelines relating to this hearing seek to prevent the child from unnecessarily entering the system and to ensure faster permanency for the child who does enter the system.

In preparing for the 72-Hour hearing counsel should immediately determine both the agency’s and your client’s version of the reasons for the child’s removal. In addition, counsel must determine what the client wishes regarding the child’s placement, frequency of visits, and communication with the child. Counsel must inform the client of the nature of the proceedings as well as their Fifth Amendment rights. At this time counsel should also be familiar with the types of placements available to children and placement issues including:

•The necessity of placement;
•The requirement of “least restrictive placement;”
•Alternatives to placement;
•Relative placement;
•The impact of removal on the child;
•The importance of placing siblings together when appropriate;
•The effect of placement on visitation;
•The effect of placement on the service needs of the children and parent;
•The transracial, transcultural and language aspects of the placement.
At the 72-hour hearing counsel should:
• Make sure incarcerated parents are present;
• Obtain copies of all relevant documents including copies of all previous orders, such as substance abuse, child support and paternity tests;
• Take time to talk to the client, asking for a recess or continuance if necessary;
• Assist the client in exercising the right to an evidentiary hearing to demonstrate to the court that the child can be returned home without further danger;
• Where appropriate, present facts and arguments regarding:
•jurisdictional sufficiency,
•adequacy of notice provided to parties,
•necessity of shelter care,
•why it is in the best interests of the child to remain home,
•whether reasonable efforts were made to prevent removal,
•whether reasonable and available services can prevent or eliminate the need to separate the family,
•whether the placement proposed is the least disruptive and most family- like setting that meets the needs of the child,
•the possibility of placement with appropriate non-custodial parents and relatives,
•whether the placement proposed is the least disruptive and most family- like setting that meets the needs of the child,
•the possibility of placement with appropriate non-custodial parents and relatives,
•arrangements for visits if the child is to remain out of the home, and
•alternatives to shelter care to be explored such as relative placement, intensive in-home services and mediation;
• Ensure that any services or needs of the family are met by the responsible agencies if the child is returned to the parents;
• Request scheduling and notice of caseplan meeting;
• Request the date and time for the adjudicatory hearing.
After the hearing counsel should:
• Inform parents of the possibility for appeals;
• If the court sets conditions for the child’s placement, explain to the client and any third party the conditions and potential consequences of violating such conditions;
• Seek review of shelter care decisions as appropriate and advise clients of changes in conditions for pre-trial placement that would be likely to get the court to agree to client’s plan;
• Explain to the client what happens next, what they need to do and any pertinent deadlines.


The caseplan is a roadmap for how the case should proceed for the future. It is a document created by the caseworker and submitted to the court for approval. Once approved, the document resides in both the court and DFCS case file. Copies are also given to the parent(s). The caseplan lays out what has be done to resolve this case. It should be created in participation with the parents of the child. The caseplan will be reviewed every 3 to 6 months. Optimally, it should be distributed at the end of the dispositional hearing; however, DFCS has 30 days after that hearing to get a copy to the parents.

At this stage of the proceeding Counsel should:
• Receive notice of caseplan family conference meeting;
• Attend the caseplan meeting or send a designee if possible;
• Instruct the client not to sign or agree to caseplan before your review;
• Make recommendations for the caseplan or develop an alternative caseplan, as appropriate;
• Receive or request a copy of the caseplan;
• Ensure that the caseplan relates to reasons for removal;
• Ensure that the findings of fact relate to the caseplan;
• Ensure that the required steps relate to the caseplan problems and goals;
• Ensure that the caseplan contains specific measurable goals tailored to your client;
• Make sure that the caseplan is realistic regarding requirements of the parent;
• Ensure that the caseplan reflects time lines and details for who is personally responsible under each provision of the caseplan;
• Ensure that the caseplan addresses who will pay for the services in the caseplan;
• Ensure that if there is a concurrent caseplan that is known to all parties;
• Ensure that the caseplan defines specific duties for DFCS and specific services to be provided by DFCS;
• Review client’s progress on caseplan.


The petition is a document outlining the facts and allegations of the deprivation case. The petition is filed by the DFCS representative in preparation for the adjudicatory hearing. If the child is removed from the parents, the petition must be filed within 5 days after the 72-hour hearing. When a petition is filed alleging deprivation, the parent’s attorney should:
• Review the petition for content;
• Review the jurisdictional sufficiency of the petition, including appropriateness of venue;
• Request a more detailed petition if necessary;
• Request discovery based on the petition;
• Find out what witnesses are going to be present at the next hearing.

Adjudicatory Hearing

The adjudicatory hearing is the trial concerning the facts alleging deprivation. The outcome of the adjudication controls whether the state may intervene over the objections of the family. The standard of proof is clear and convincing evidence.

In preparation for the adjudicatory hearing or for a pre-trial conference, the attorney should:
• Request pre-trial conferences, when necessary;
• File any appropriate pre-trial motions;
• Review the DFCS file;
• Request discovery, if necessary;
• Conduct an independent and thorough investigation;
• Identify and interview all appropriate parties;
• Explore alternative placement options;
• Develop recommendations for progress of, or resolution to the case;
• Talk with the Guardian ad litem (GAL) and/or CASA;
• Issue subpoenas for witnesses, as needed, for trial;
• Where a child is a witness, meet with the GAL to minimize stress on the child and parent;
• Request other process diversions, when appropriate, such as mediation;
• Discuss the court process with the parent;
• Review applicable law, including the rules of evidence, supporting case law and the state’s burden of proof;
• Coordinate with attorney handling a corresponding criminal case, if any, and be mindful of the consequences with regard to any prosecution of the client.

At the adjudicatory hearing, counsel should:
• Be present and on time;
• Have witnesses present. Even if prior agreement was reached with SAAG and GAL, witnesses should still be present in case an unexpected dispute arises or the judge rejects the agreement;
• Contest any request for a continuance unless it is due to a legal reason or unavoidable reason;
• Present evidence, including testimony of witnesses, medical/psychological records, photographs;
• Ensure that the agency is making reasonable efforts to rehabilitate the family and eliminate the need for placement of the child;
• Ensure that the case plan is based on findings of fact and the initial reasons for removal, is made an order of the court or a supplemental order and is signed indicating the court is adopting it;
• Call witnesses when appropriate;
• Be prepared to cross-examine DFCS and witnesses;
• Offer appropriate motions and/or objections to preserve issues for appeal;
• Thoroughly examine all stipulations and discuss stipulations/admissions with client as well as their repercussions;
• If possible, ask the court to schedule the next hearing, including disposition or review, if appropriate.

Dispositional Hearing

Disposition is the stage of the juvenile court process in which, after finding that the child is deprived and is within the jurisdiction of the court, the court determines who should have custody and control of the child. This hearing is usually held immediately following the adjudicatory hearing. All parties present at the adjudicatory hearing need to be present at the dispositional hearing.

Prior to the dispositional hearing, the attorney should:
• Obtain the case plan with recommendation as to placement and identify alternative placements, if necessary;
• Ensure that the goals for reunification are consistent with the reasons for removal;
• Explore the appropriateness of the recommended placement including foster homes;
• Obtain recommendations of professionals, including medical and psychiatric care providers and teachers.

During the dispositional hearing, the attorney should:
• Review the caseplan on the record so that the judges can clearly explain the goals, time lines, future hearing dates, notice, and full disclosure;
• Ensure that the case plan is still appropriate and consistent with the reasons for removal;
• Ensure early and adequate provision of services;
• Be creative when asking for services for your client;
• Ensure that the orders are clear and specific, using language that the parent understands;
• Ensure that visitation is addressed, including parents and siblings, meaningful visitation that is conducive to the parent’s schedule, time frames, frequency, unsupervised visitation, alternative resources for frequent visitation;
• Address issues relating to placement, services, transportation, parenting classes, housing, time frames, medical needs, educational needs and counseling;
• Ensure that the client understands the caseplan, goals and their responsibilities, the time frames involved and explain the next steps

Review Hearings

Review hearings are court proceedings that take place after disposition in which the court reviews the status of the case. In many counties, this hearing is delegated to citizen review panels who do a full review of the case and make recommendations to the judge. The judge will then review the same case on paper with the panel’s recommendations and will issue an order incorporating those recommendations, if appropriate. Reviews examine progress made by the parties since the conclusion of the dispositional hearing and provide an opportunity for correction and revision of the case plan. The purpose of review hearings is to make sure that the case progresses, that the child spends as short a time as possible in temporary placement, and that the entire process is monitored for accountability. Attorneys for parents should ask to receive notice of all reviews. The attorney should also monitor the frequency of the reviews to ensure they are adequate and when appropriate request a review if your client has made progress and the child could return home.

For citizen review panels, the attorney should:
• Request notice of the panel meeting;
• Prepare for and participate in the meeting when warranted;
• If necessary, provide information in writing to the panel;
• Discuss the proceeding with the client before and after the review;
• Have client collect information on progress made on case plan and goals achieved to present to DFCS prior to the review and to the panel at the review;
• Review the report of the panel and request judicial review or in-court review if needed.
For judicial reviews the attorney should:
• Request notice of the court date;
• Attend each review.
• Talk to service providers or others who may help client;
• Explore whether the child can now be returned home or ensure that the current placement is still appropriate and least restrictive;
• Modify or increase the visitation schedule;
• Ensure the agency is making reasonable efforts by providing services to eliminate the need for placement of the child;
• Explore whether services set forth in the caseplan and the responsibilities of the parties need to be clarified or modified due to the availability of additional information or changed circumstances;
• Explore whether any additional court orders need to be made to move the case toward successful completion;
• Determine whether the current custody order has expired;
• Explore the current permanency plan for the child and ensure that it is appropriate;
• Modify deadlines, as needed;
• Make a record of caseworker changes.

Permanency Placement Hearing

Under Georgia law, the permanency plan can be addressed as part of the custody extension hearing. One code section indicates that a permanency hearing is separate from the custody extension hearing, and is to be held within twelve months after a child comes into care. However, such a separate hearing is not clearly required by Georgia law. The two purposes of the permanency hearing (which are required by federal law) are (1) to determine if a child will remain in care and (2) to determine a child’s permanency plan. Both purposes should also be addressed at the custody extension hearing.
“Permanency Hearings are required whenever reunification efforts or reasonable efforts for reunification are not made or cease.” At this time, permanency hearings are not triggered by a custody extension hearing. However, permanency issues are required to be heard and determined at the time of a custody extension hearing. Because of this lack of clarity, some Georgia juvenile courts are holding separate permanency hearings, others are blending custody extension hearings and permanency hearings, and others have not changed their procedures at all since the passage of the 1997 Adoption and Safe Families Act.

At the permanency hearing, the attorney for the parent should:
• Review the case plan and request additional services or modifications as necessary;
• Review compliance with the caseplan as well as all other evidence;
• Review current placement, if re-unification is not the plan;
• If DFCS or GAL is moving towards termination of parental rights, ensure that the next steps and deadlines are set;
• Propose a recommendation and
be able to support that recommendation with facts;
• Even if there is no parent/child reunification, address sibling visitation;
• Counsel the client that the clock is running;
• Consider alternative placements;
• Discuss voluntary relinquishment with client;
• Make sure your term of appointment is established;
• Discuss the next steps with client;
• Advocate for the client’s wishes;
• If appropriate, arrange for reunification. If imminent, and all parties consent, reunification can occur without a court date.

Termination of Parental Rights

Termination of parental rights (TPR) cases arising from child deprivation cases are among the most difficult a parent’s attorney can face. There is a strong possibility that a case will result in TPR when intensive, in-home services cannot safely be provided or are attempted but fail to result in reunification. An order terminating parental rights is without limit as to duration and terminates all the parent’s rights and obligations with respect to the child and all rights and obligations of the child to the parent arising from the parental relationship. In addition, the parent is no longer entitled to notice of further legal proceedings and is effectively denied further opportunity to regain custody. With the passage of ASFA, termination of parental rights may be affected within a shorter period of time and more frequently than ever before. There are also risks to a child in terminating parental rights. If the decision is premature, a child may needlessly be deprived of a chance to return home, to keep contact with parents, and to have lifelong relationships with members of an extended family. In light of the severity of the threat facing the family, parent’s attorneys must engage in a vigorous and zealous defense after determining that the parent wishes to contest termination.

• Determine whether the parent wishes to contest termination;
• Discuss voluntary relinquishment with the parent;
• Ensure that the petition states every factual allegation/ground that supports termination of parental rights;
• Review the entire court record and case file;
• If new to the case, conduct a full investigation and interview the prior attorney;
• Review the Georgia TPR statute;
• Prepare witnesses for testimony, including direct and cross examination;
• Be prepared to address unique issues and any recent developments in the case that may affect the court’s decision;
• Work with the GAL and/or CASA;
• Determine if there are compelling reasons why there should not be a termination;
• Explain the process and consequences of the hearing with the client;
• Identify the basis of the original abuse or neglect allegations and carefully analyze the agency’s efforts to work with the parent;
• Consider motions for expert evaluations of:

•the child’s relationship with the parent and foster parents,
•the child’s response to continued contacts with the parent while in foster care,
•the parent’s capacity to care for the child, and
•mental disabilities or other specific diagnoses;
• If representing the putative father:
•ensure that he has legitimized the child(ren) and
•ensure that he has his own separate case plan.

At the TPR hearing, the attorney for the parent should:
• Present evidence, including testimony of all witnesses;
• Argue that TPR is not in the best interests of the child;
• Contest the legal grounds for termination, the state is required to prove its case by clear and convincing evidence;
• Preserve issues for appeal.

Following a TPR

• Determine whether there are issues for appeal and file notice of appeal;
• If appealing, consider visitation while case is still pending;
• Advise client regarding consequences of the order and future issues;
• Send appropriate paperwork to the parent.

In determining whether to appeal a deprivation, disposition, review decision or a decision to terminate parental rights, an attorney must evaluate whether an appeal is in the parent’s interest. Although representing the parent zealously entails pursuing an appeal when meritorious, there are other factors to consider. The most important factors are that of time and the wishes of the client. Because appeals are time consuming, can tax the parents’ emotional resources and leave the family situation in continued disarray, it is not always in the parent’s best interest to appeal. However, if the appeal is meritorious and the client wants to appeal, an attorney should explore means of expediting it.

When appealing or considering an appeal attorneys should:
• Review and follow all established rules for appellate procedure;
• Get copies of the court transcripts;
• Consider appeals on “reasonable effort” determinations;
• Choose appropriate cases for appeal to make good law;
• Work with other attorneys representing parents to make good law;
• Be realistic with the parent about possible results;
• Be aware of the danger of not appealing a deprivation finding;
• Ensure that your appointment is on-going.

The Parent Attorney Wish List

• That the Governor and Legislature provide sufficient funding to adequately compensate attorneys who represent parents in deprivation and termination cases;

• That there be caseload limits for parents attorneys;

• That there be an organized parents attorney bar;

• That there be more relevant Continuing Legal Education for parents attorneys;

• That the attorneys be provided with funds for their own investigators upon request;

• That there be more cooperation between all parties involved in the formation and execution of the caseplan;

• That deprivation mediation be provided, and that it be led by high quality mediators using sound, established protocol;

• That citizen review panels be adequately trained and that their recommendations have meaningful judicial review;

• That if the putative father is readily available, he should be provided an appointed attorney upon request;

• That each parent be provided with his or her separate attorney;

• That there be a uniform statewide system of court procedure;

• That there be a statewide standardized computer system;

• That the attorney be allowed to stay with case until its end;

• That there be one caseworker per child;

• That if reunification is a viable solution, DFCS will actively work towards reunification;

• That if at all possible, siblings will be kept together in their placement;

• That meaningful and frequent visitation between parent and child be provided;

• That, if necessary, transportation and/or transportation costs be provided for the parents;

• That the independence of the parents attorney be ensured without the necessity of an employment contract with the juvenile court;

• That parents are assured of quality representation at all stages of the proceedings;

• That attorneys be provided sufficient time to prepare the case properly;

• That there be better training for CASA’s and that said training includes elements which focus on the parents;

• That there be full time juvenile court judges throughout the state;

• That all dates for future hearings are set while in court and that everyone have notice of future hearing dates;

• That deprivation and termination cases get automatic expedited appeals.

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About yvonnemason

Background:  The eldest of five children, Yvonne was born May 17, 1951 in Atlanta, Georgia. Raised in East Point, Georgia, she moved to Jackson County, Ga. until 2006 then moved to Port St. Lucie, Florida where she currently makes her home.  Licensed bounty hunter for the state of Georgia. Education:  After a 34 year absence, returned to college in 2004. Graduated with honors in Criminal Justice with an Associate’s degree from Lanier Technical College in 2006. Awards:  Nominated for the prestigious GOAL award in 2005 which encompasses all of the technical colleges. This award is based not only on excellence in academics but also leadership, positive attitude and the willingness to excel in one’s major. Affiliations:  Beta Sigma Phi Sorority  Member of The Florida Writer’s Association – Group Leader for St Lucie County The Dream:  Since learning to write at the age of five, Yvonne has wanted to be an author. She wrote her first novel Stan’s Story beginning in 1974 and completed it in 2006. Publication seemed impossible as rejections grew to 10 years. Determined, she continued adding to the story until her dream came true in 2006. The Inspiration:  Yvonne’s brother Stan has been her inspiration and hero in every facet of her life. He was stricken with Encephalitis at the tender age of nine months. He has defied every roadblock placed in his way and has been the driving force in every one of her accomplishments. He is the one who taught her never to give up The Author: Yvonne is currently the author of several novels, including:  Stan’s Story- the true story of her brother’s accomplishments, it has been compared to the style of Capote, and is currently being rewritten with new information for re-release.  Tangled Minds - a riveting story about a young girl’s bad decision and how it taints everyone’s life around her yet still manages to show that hope is always possible. This novel has been compared to the writing of Steinbeck and is currently being written as a screenplay. This novel will be re-released by Kerlak Publishing in 2009  Brilliant Insanity – released by Kerlak Publishing October 2008  Silent Scream – Released by October 2008- Slated to be made into a movie Yvonne’s Philosophy in Life - “Pay it Forward”: “In this life we all have been helped by others to attain our dreams and goals. We cannot pay it back but what we can do is ‘pay it forward’. It is a simple
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