Court & Family Services
The Court & Family Services Division oversees the Child in Need of Services (CHINS) registry and the processing of CHINS cases, the Complaint Office, the Educational Advocate, the Intake Attorney, the Citizen Review Panel and the Mediation Program. Combined, the division provides and manages services to qualifying children and families in support of Juvenile Court’s mission.
For inquiries regarding the Court & Family Services Division, please contact:
All juvenile court walk-in cases are initiated by a complaint and are screened by the Complaint Office base on the policies and procedures developed by the intake attorney in accordance with Title 15 of the Official Code of Georgia, the Uniform Rules of Juvenile Court, federal law and case law.
The Complaint Office serves in the same capacity as the Family Law Center of Superior Court as members of the community are advised and counseled on how to pursue legal actions related to children whether that be in Juvenile Court, Superior Court or Probate Court. In the event that Juvenile Court has jurisdiction, the Complaint Office staff drafts then legal document for the customer to ensure its legal sufficiency. The Complaint Office also provides legal advice and assistance to various agencies that work with the court such as The Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS), Atlanta Public Schools, Fulton County Public Schools, The Public Defender’s Office, The Office of the Child Attorney and the District Attorney’s Office.
The Complaint Office is in effect the legal department of Fulton County Juvenile Court, and is responsible for generating legal documents in compliance with legal standards in order for cases to proceed through the court. The Intake Attorney and staff are responsible for the legality and timeliness of these documents which are the basis of each court case. Examples of these documents include:
- Truancy Petitions
- Guardianships/Petitions to Terminate Guardianships
- Parental Notification Petitions
- Violations of Probation
- Emancipation Petitions
- Petitions to seal a child’s record
- Runaway Complaints
- Motions to Modify
- Grandparent Power of Attorney
In summary, the Complaint Office provides the public with legal access to the juvenile court. Without the assistance of the Complaint Office, the public would have limited access to the court unless they could afford an attorney or had the court appoint an attorney for them. When cases are properly screened by the complaint office, cases are legally sufficient which results in fewer cases that are dismissed at court and less cases being re-filed to correct legal issues.
The Intake Attorney is a supervising attorney position which manages the day-to-day operations of the complaint office as well as the administrative and personnel matters of that office. The staff of the complaint office consists of one legal assistant specialist, and a legal assistant.
The Intake Attorney provides legal advice and answers the procedural questions of clients, attorneys practicing in the court, agencies that work with the court, the court staff and the judicial staff. Policy and procedures are developed by the intake attorney for the court staff and judges to provide legal guidelines for the operation of business. For example, policies and procedures were developed relating to the detention of juveniles and the applicable time limits for custody staff regarding legal tactics and strategies.
The Intake Attorney serves as the legislative liaison for the court and monitors new law and its effect on the court. Once enacted, policies and provides are created by the Intake Attorney to ensure the court complies with new legislation.
The Citizen Panel Review program utilizes volunteers to conduct legally mandated reviews of the status and welfare of children placed by the Juvenile Court in the legal custody of the Fulton County Department of Family and Children Services to ensure that reasonable efforts are being made to reunify the family or otherwise provide permanency for a child. The program uses volunteers to staff panels which meet periodically to review cases and to ensure that all case plans are appropriate for the family’s needs.
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 Program works to reduce recidivism and increase academic success by working to ensure that students involved with the juvenile justice system are receiving the special education services afforded to them under the law. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) provides that children with educational deficiencies be provided special education and other related services including those children who have been suspended or expelled from school. The educational advocate represents children in all school related infractions and prevents the growing expulsion of children from the public school system.
The educational advocate assists in overturning expulsions derived from the school systems failure to uphold the “Child Find Requirement” of IDEA (2004) which states that: School districts are obligated to identify, locate and evaluate all children with disabilities, regardless of the severity of their disabilities. The educational advocate assists with special needs cases where children have been pressured into withdrawing from school for various legally defensible reasons. Some of these students are often mildly intellectually disabled /mildly mentally retarded and have never been considered for alternative assessments or to meet alternative requirements for gaining a HS diploma (formerly known as a special education diploma or IEP diploma).
A panel of juvenile court staff and child welfare experts meet with parents and children who are alleged to have violated the Georgia Compulsory School Attendance Law. The school social workers from the Atlanta Public School and Fulton County School Systems refer the families to the program after a child has received 10 unexcused absences. The parties will discuss the attendance issues, identify the problems causing the absenteeism and create a plan to address the child’s needs, parent’s and school’s role in achieving the outlined goal of eliminating future truant behavior. All parties including the parent/guardian, child, school and court will sign an attendance contract that details what each party agrees to do to further the objectives of the attendance plan. The agreement also acknowledges the potential consequences for failure to cooperate or comply with the recommended services.
Title 15 of the Official Code of Georgia requires that the court appoint a guardian ad litem (GAL) for all dependent children, and in certain circumstances for delinquent children and children in need of services (CHINS). The court’s GALs advocate for a child’s best interest and provide written reports with recommendations to the court and parties. 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 GAL’s on staff and additionally appoints CASA and other trained volunteers to serve as GAL’s.
The Mediation Program is an integral part of both the Probation Division and the dependency unit. 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 problems.
If an agreement is reached between the parties, the agreement is signed by a Juvenile Court Judge and becomes an order of the Court.
It is the mission of Victim Services Department to provide information, education and support services; alleviate trauma; and involve victims of juvenile crime and the community in a balanced and restorative justice process that is victim-centered and diminishes the impact of crime. The Victim/Witness Program Counselor delivers with compassion, a continuum of comprehensive services that promotes victim’ rights and supports statewide victim focused programs, through the delivery of timely, accurate and informative services. The Victim/Witness Program Counselor processes and monitors the completion of community service and restitution for court ordered youth assigned to probation, diversion and mediation. The Victim/Witness Program Counselor monitors and notifies the Accounting Office concerning cases involving joint restitution with co-perpetrators. Develops and coordinate collaborative efforts between Fulton County Juvenile Court, Assistant District Attorney’s Office, and the Department of Juvenile Justice to enhance victim services.