GUIDELINES FOR ATTORNEYS
This is a guideline for parents who have attorneys who represent them in their fights with CPS – The attorneys should be doing this even if they are public defenders. They owe it to their clients to do the best job possible. They are sworn to represent their client. IF your attorney is not doing this especially if he/she is a Public Defender complain to their supervisor. They get paid by the State to defend- make them earn their money. In Jackson County Georgia this is not happening.
SUMMARY OF GUIDELINES FOR ATTORNEYS
RESPONSIBILITIES OF ALL ATTORNEYS
1. Responsibilities Prior to Representing a Client in a Dependency Case
Prior to any involvement in a dependency case, all attorneys should be familiar with the following:
a. The causes of and available treatment for child abuse and neglect.
b. Child development principles, particularly the importance of attachment and bonding and the effects of parental separation on young children.
c. The child welfare and family preservation services available in the community and the problems the services are designed to address. Absent specific documentation as to why they are not needed, at least the following services should be available:
1. family preservation services;
2. generic family-based services;
3. cash payments for emergency needs/ ongoing financial support;
4. services to meet basic needs such as food, clothing, and housing;
5. services to address specific problems:
child care evaluation and treatment for substance abuse/ chemical addiction
life skills training/ household management; and
6. facilitative services such as visitation and transportation.
d. The structure and function of the child welfare agency and court systems, services for which the agency will routinely pay, and services for which the agency either cannot or will not pay.
e. Experts who can consult with attorneys and/ or testify on the reasonableness of agency efforts to maintain the child in the home.
2. Responsibilities After Undertaking Representation of a Client in a Dependency Case
After accepting a case, an attorney should:
a. Interview the client.
Interview the client to determine what involvement, if any, the agency had with the parent or child prior to child’s removal from the home, and what services the client believes would have been helpful in avoiding the placement.
b. Investigate the child’s removal from the home.
Become familiar with the circumstances under which the child was taken from the
parent’s custody. Attorneys should know the history of the family’s prior contacts with the agency, who made the decision to remove the child, and the basis for removal, including:
1. the specific behavior or circumstances that put the child at risk of harm and
2. how family problems are causing or contributing to the risk; and
3. services the agency has provided and will provide for the family to alleviate or diminish the risk and what alternatives, including in-home services and placement with relatives, were considered prior to removal.
c. Investigate reunification efforts.
If the child has been removed from the home, determine what contacts the agency has had with the parents and the child since the removal, and what efforts it has made to reunify the family.
d. Investigate efforts to achieve permanency for children.
Attorneys for both agencies and children should ensure that agencies make reasonable efforts to timely place children in permanent placements, including:
1. ensuring permanency hearings are timely held;
2. identifying appropriate cases for concurrent planning;
3. timely filing petitions to terminate parental rights; and
4. making specific recruitment efforts to find adoptive homes for children, including timely adoption studies of both the child and potential adoptive family, and the prompt pursuit of adoption assistance funds for special needs children.
e. Investigate involvement of outside agencies.
Determine whether other agencies have been involved in the case and interview representatives of these agencies.
f. Interview the agency social worker and review the agency’s file.
Make arrangements with the agency attorney to talk directly with the social work-er involved in the case and review the agency’s file to ensure it has complied with its own procedures and regulations.
ADDITIONAL RESPONSIBILITIES OF ATTORNEYS FOR PARENTS OR CHILDREN
1. Determine the Client s Goals and Concerns About Placement
Explain to the client the possible results of the shelter care hearing and the psychological and legal consequences of removing the child from the home, and elicit the client’s view of the placement and ultimate goals at the hearing.
2. Interview the Agency Social Worker
Communicate with the agency social worker and review agency records to obtain more information about the case, including services provided or requested by the family prior to the child’s removal and the social worker s plan for reunification (services to be provided, visitation arrangements, and projected date of child’s return) .
3. Determine the child’s Ability to Return Home
By asking the client and consulting with experts, determine what services should be provided to allow the child to return home. Determine whether these services are available in the community and can be provided by the agency.
4. Require the Agency to Present Evidence of Reasonable Efforts
Require the agency to present evidence on the record of all efforts made or attempted to keep the child in the home.
5. Ensure that Witnesses attend the Hearing
Ensure that individuals are subpoenaed and attend the hearing who have had co tact with the family and can testify either to the efforts the agency made to keep child in the home, or the services that should have been provided but were not.
6. Present Evidence on Reasonable Efforts
Present evidence on the reasonableness or unreasonableness of the agency’s efforts, and on alternative efforts that could have been made.
7. Obtain Court Orders for Specific Services
Where possible, request that the court order that specific services, including visitation, be provided.
8. Ensure that Settlement of the Case Is Incorporated in the Case Plan