In all of my research in the abuse, corruption and greed of Child Protective Services I have found something that not only saddens me it makes me very angry. I should not be surprised because I have encountered many parents who have told me that this was happening.
My daughter who lives in Jackson County Georgia was a recipient of this type of lack of representation.
The problem which is rampant all over the state of Georgia is that Attorneys both in private practice and in the public defenders offices don’t know how to represent the parents and their children in cases of deprivation, or alleged child abuse. This was discussed in great depth in “A Statewide Assessment of Georgia Parent Representation in Child Welfare Proceedings” January 2010.
This assessment was submitted to Supreme Court of Georgia Committee on Justice for Children Staffed by the Administrative Office of the Courts. It was prepared by the Governmental Services and Research Division and Carl Vinson Institute of Government which is part of the University of Georgia.
Their findings conclude: “In Georgia the current practice of parent representation is fragmented and different models/practices are implemented across the state. In recent years, other states have studied their practice of parent representation and identified similar needs and barriers, and the American Bar Association (ABA) is bringing to parent attorney practice at both national and state levels.”
This assessment goes on to state: “Through focus groups and interviews with judges, parent attorneys, and court administrators throughout Georgia, several over arching themes were identified to inform the statewide survey:
There is variation across the state in the quality of parent representation
There is variation in the attorney appointment process
Attorneys are given little time to prepare for cases and often make their first contact with a client in the courtroom
Methods of compensation and low pay impact an attorney’s ability to provide quality representation.”
From my dealings with other parents in the state of Georgia and the dealings of the public defender’s office in Jackson County Ga., I can attest that this indeed a true statement. But it goes deeper than that. There is no training for the attorney to learn how to handle a case like these. The Discovery Issue is a nightmare. “Obtaining access to DFCS records by the parent attorney is an ongoing issue. This may be from a lack of training on the parent attorney side or a lack of communication on the DFCS’s side; varying time limits in obtaining information affect the ability to get discovery before a hearing. There are counties with a protocol regarding discovery, but there is not a standardized protocol in the state for each county. Continuity of Representation is mixed around the state. Some counties adhere to a One Attorney/One Family protocol, which enables the parent attorney to remain with their client through the entirety of the process, while other counties report clients appearing in court with no representation, or various representation throughout the process..”
This is just part of the madness of this convoluted and abusive system. The parents are the losers. The children are the losers. According to our US Constitution a parent who has been accused of child abuse/neglect has the right to representation throughout the entire process. It is part of the “due process” of our judicial system.
This assessment also brings up the lack of notice to the parent attorney in a timely manner which can cause a parent to appear with no representation or the parent attorney learning of the hearing at the last minute. There is also the confusion of the parent attorney telling the parent that they cannot show up at the panel hearings. They can. It is considered a review hearing.
This is stipulated in the Parent Attorney Trial Notebook for Deprivation Cases in Georgia’s Juvenile Courts. This book and work was sponsored by The Supreme Court of Georgia’s Committee on Justice for Children and The Georgia Public Defender Standards Council. This book and work was prepared by Mary Hermann, Esq, Faculty Carl Vinson Institute of Government, University of Georgia.
There is a case in Jackson County Georgia right now where the parent is facing the panel by herself later this month. The reason the Public Defender’s office said they couldn’t go. Well that is not true. They are supposed to go because this is considered a review hearing. This brings up the next travesty. That of knowing what they are doing.
In the assessment Judges rated the top four barriers to effective representation were access to resources 86.2% timely contact 85.7% compensation 66.7% and time notice from court 41.3%, Access to training 37.90%, access to discovery 34.50% due process 17.20% Timely notice from court 41.30%.
With these kinds of percentage no wonder parents don’t have “quality” representation. This is a travesty .
When asked when representation ends the majority stated when the case was completed. However, half of the public defenders thought that the case ends at some other point. Some of the descriptions of “at some other point” included after disposition, evaluated after each hearing, through the final 10day hearing, when the appeal time has ended and once a case plan is completed or failed. Again this is the reason parents have no chance and again this is a travesty.
According to the assessment the question was asked When should representation end. The opinions were : more than half (61%) of the 55 respondents said it should end where it currently ends, which is at the close of the case. The close of the case would include reunification or permanency, all appeals completed, when the child reaches 18…
As one can plainly see not only do the attorney have no clue as to what is going on in these cases they don’t have the training to even represent their clients. They don’t appear to know when the case ends, how to get discovery, how to access records, etc. They pay lip service to their client. It is not a murder trial so they don’t appear to care. If I can find this information my question is why can’t they? They are cheating the parents who have lost their children to the abuse, greed and corruption of DFCS. These parents are at the mercy of DFCS which is not their friend. They are at the mercy of attorneys who are not trained, don’t know how to properly represent them and get angry when they are questioned. These two books are proof positive that there is a serious problem in the state of Georgia with the lack of proper due process and representation for parents who have been accused of deprivation and neglect. These two charges are considered felonies according to the Ga. State Statutes, however they don’t get into criminal court. DFCS wants to keep them in juvenile court because in most cases they really don’t have a case. The attorneys for the parents in their lack of training don’t fight for these parents.
The parents are victims many times over, they are abused by DFCS, then they are abused by the attorney who is supposed to be their advocate. This should be criminal.
Both of these books can be found on the internet.