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Georgia State Code
Title      15
Chapter      11  
Section Navigation     1 ... 10         11 ... 21    
    22 ... 30       30.1 ... 38.1  
    39 ... 48           49 ... 64    
    65 ... 73         78 ... 88    
    89 ... 99        100 ... 112   
   113 ... 152       153 ... 176    177     
Section<<< 49 49.1 50 55 56 57 58 62 63 64 >>>  
Title 15, Chapter 11, Section 58 (15-11-58)

(a) A court's order removing a child from the child's home shall be based upon a finding by that court that continuation in the home would be contrary to the welfare of the child. The court shall also determine as a finding of fact whether reasonable efforts were made by the Division of Family and Children Services of the Department of Human Resources and any other appropriate agencies to preserve and reunify families prior to the placement of a child in foster care, to prevent or eliminate the need for removal of the child from that child's home, and to make it possible for the child to return safely to the child's home. Such findings shall also be made at every subsequent review of the court's order under this chapter.

(1) In determining reasonable efforts to be made with respect to a child, as described in this subsection, and in making such reasonable efforts, the child's health and safety shall be the paramount concern;

(2) Except as provided in paragraph (4) of this subsection, reasonable efforts shall be made to preserve and reunify families:

(A) Prior to the placement of a child in foster care, to prevent or eliminate the need for removing the child from the child's home; and

(B) To make it possible for a child to return safely to the child's home;

(3) If continuation of reasonable efforts of the type described in paragraph (2) of this subsection is determined to be inconsistent with the permanency plan for the child, reasonable efforts shall be made to place the child in a timely manner in accordance with the permanency plan and to complete whatever steps are necessary to finalize the permanent placement of the child;

(4) Reasonable efforts of the type described in paragraph (2) of this subsection shall not be required to be made with respect to a parent of a child if a court of competent jurisdiction has determined that:

(A) The parent has subjected the child to aggravated circumstances which may include but need not be limited to abandonment, torture, chronic abuse, and sexual abuse;

(B) The parent has:

(i) Committed murder of another child of the parent;

(ii) Committed voluntary manslaughter of another child of the parent;

(iii) Aided or abetted, attempted, conspired, or solicited to commit murder or voluntary manslaughter of another child of the parent; or

(iv) Committed a felony assault that results in serious bodily injury to the child or another child of the parent; or

(C) The parental rights of the parent to a sibling have been terminated involuntarily;

(5) If reasonable efforts of the type described in paragraph (2) of this subsection are not made with respect to a child as a result of a determination made by a court of competent jurisdiction in accordance with paragraph (4) of this subsection:

(A) A permanency hearing shall be held for the child within 30 days after such determination; and

(B) Reasonable efforts shall be made to place the child in a timely manner in accordance with the permanency plan and to complete whatever steps are necessary to finalize the permanent placement of the child; and

(6) Reasonable efforts to place a child for adoption or with a legal guardian may be made concurrently with reasonable efforts of the type described in paragraph (2) of this subsection.

(b) Within 30 days of the date of removal of the child from the home and at each subsequent review of the disposition order, the Division of Family and Children Services of the Department of Human Resources must submit a written report to the court which shall either include a case plan for a reunification of the family or include a statement of the factual basis or bases for determining that a plan for reunification is not appropriate. Such report shall become a discrete part of the case record in a format determined by the Division of Family and Children Services of the Department of Human Resources and shall be made available to the parents or guardian of the foster child. The contents of the report shall be determined at a meeting to be held by the Division of Family and Children Services of the Department of Human Resources in consultation with the judicial citizen review panel, if one is designated by the court for such purpose, and the parents and children, when available. The parents shall be given written notice of the meeting at least five days in advance and shall be advised that the report will be submitted to become an order of the court. The report submitted to the court shall also contain any dissenting recommendations of the judicial citizen review panel, if applicable, and any recommendations of the parents, if such are available.

(c) If the report contains a plan for reunification services, such plan if adopted by the court shall be in effect until modification by the court. The plan shall address each reason requiring removal and shall contain at least the following:

(1) The purpose for which the child was placed in foster care, including a statement of the reasons why the child cannot be adequately protected at home and the harm which may occur if the child remains in the home and shall also include a description of the services offered and the services provided to prevent removal of the child from the home;

(2) A discussion of how the plan is designed to achieve a placement in a safe setting that is the least restrictive, most family-like, and most appropriate setting available and in close proximity to the home of the parents, consistent with the best interests and special needs of the child;

(3) A clear description of the specific actions to be taken by the parents and the specific services to be provided by the Division of Family and Children Services of the Department of Human Resources or other appropriate agencies in order to bring about the identified changes that must be made in order for the child to be safely returned home; provided, however, that all services and actions required of the parents which are not directly related to the circumstances necessitating separation cannot be made conditions of the return of the child without further court review;

(4) Specific time frames in which the goals of the plan are to be accomplished to fulfill the purpose of the reunification plan;

(5) The person within the Division of Family and Children Services of the Department of Human Resources or other agency who is directly responsible for ensuring that the plan is implemented; and

(6) Consideration of the advisability of a reasonable visitation schedule which allows the parents to maintain meaningful contact with their children through personal visits, telephone calls, and letters.

(d) If the submitted report contains a proposed plan for reunification services, and no hearing is requested as provided in this Code section, the court shall enter a dispositional order or supplemental order incorporating all elements of the plan for reunification services which the court finds essential to reunification of the child with his or her family, specifying what must be accomplished by all parties before reunification of the family can be achieved. If the report contains a plan for reunification services, a copy of the report must be transmitted to the parents at the same time the report is transmitted to the court, along with written notice that the report will be made the order of the court unless, within five days from the date the copy of the report was received, the parents request a hearing before the court to review the report.

(e) If the report submitted to the court does not contain a plan for reunification services, upon proper notice being provided to the parents, the court shall, no later than 30 days following the filing of the report, hold a permanency hearing to review the report and the determination that a plan for reunification services is not appropriate.

(f) When a recommendation is made that reunification services are not appropriate and should not be allowed, the report shall address each reason requiring removal and shall contain at least the following:

(1) The purpose for which the child was placed in foster care, including a statement of the reasons why the child cannot be adequately and safely protected at home and the harm which may occur if the child remains in the home and a description of the services offered and the services provided to prevent removal of the child from the home; and

(2) A clear statement describing all of the reasons supporting a finding that reasonable efforts to reunify a child with the child's family will be detrimental to the child, and that reunification services therefore need not be provided, including specific findings as to whether any of the grounds for terminating parental rights exist, as set forth in subsection (b) of Code Section 15-11-94 or paragraph (4) of subsection (a) of this Code section.

(g) At the permanency hearing held for the purpose of reviewing the determination by the Division of Family and Children Services of the Department of Human Resources that a reunification plan is not appropriate, the representative of the Division of Family and Children Services shall notify the court whether and when it intends to proceed with termination of parental rights at that time. If the Division of Family and Children Services indicates that it does not intend to petition for the termination of parental rights, the court may appoint a guardian ad litem and charge such guardian with the duty of determining whether termination proceedings should be commenced.

(h) When reviewing the determination by the Division of Family and Children Services of the Department of Human Resources that a reunification plan is not appropriate, the court shall determine by clear and convincing evidence whether reasonable efforts to reunify a child with his or her family will be detrimental to the child and that reunification services, therefore, should not be provided or should be terminated. There shall be a presumption that reunification services should not be provided if the court finds by clear and convincing evidence that:

(1) The parent has unjustifiably failed to comply with a previously ordered plan designed to reunite the family;

(2) A child has been removed from the home on at least two previous occasions and reunification services were made available on those occasions;

(3) Any of the grounds for terminating parental rights exist, as set forth in subsection (b) of Code Section 15-11-94; or

(4) Any of the circumstances set out in paragraph (4) of subsection (a) of this Code section exist, making it unnecessary to provide reasonable efforts to reunify.

(i) If, after a judicial hearing in which the court finds that reunification is not in the best interests of the child and custody is granted to a relative, the custody order shall remain in effect until the child's eighteenth birthday unless modified following a petition for modification by a party pursuant to Code Section 15-11-40. Within 36 months of the custody order and every 36 months thereafter, a probation officer, judicial citizen review panel established by the court, or other person or agency designated by the court shall, after study or review, submit a report to the court addressing whether the relative with custody continues to be qualified to receive and care for the child. A copy of the report shall be mailed to the parents at their last known address.

(j) Whenever the permanency plan is adoption or placement in another permanent home, the report submitted to the court shall document the steps to be taken by the Division of Family and Children Services of the Department of Human Resources to find an adoptive family or other permanent living arrangement for the child; to place the child with an adoptive family, a fit and willing relative, a legal guardian, or in another planned permanent living arrangement; and to finalize the adoption or legal guardianship. At a minimum, such documentation shall include child specific recruitment efforts such as the use of state, regional, and national adoption exchanges including electronic exchange systems.

(k) Except as otherwise provided by law, an order of disposition placing a deprived child in foster care under the supervision of the Division of Family and Children Services of the Department of Human Resources shall continue in force for 12 months after the date the child is considered to have entered foster care or until sooner terminated by the court. For the purposes of this subsection, the date the child is considered to have entered foster care shall be the date of the first judicial finding that the child has been subjected to child abuse or neglect, or the date that is 60 days after the date on which the child is removed from the home, whichever is earlier. All cases of children in foster care in the custody of the Division of Family and Children Services of the Department of Human Resources shall be initially reviewed within 90 days of the entering of the dispositional order but no later than six months following the child's placement and shall be conducted by the juvenile court judge, by an associate juvenile court judge or judge pro tempore, or by judicial citizen review panels established by the court, as the court directs, meeting such standards and using such procedures as shall be established by court rule by the Supreme Court of Georgia, with the advice and consent of the Council of Juvenile Court Judges. At the time of each review of every case of a child in foster care in the custody of the Division of Family and Children Services of the Department of Human Resources, a representative of the Division of Family and Children Services shall notify the court whether such division intends to proceed with the termination of parental rights at that time. If such division indicates that it does not intend to petition for the termination of parental rights at that time, the court may appoint a guardian ad litem and charge such guardian with the duty of determining whether termination proceedings should be commenced. In the event the review is conducted by judicial citizen review panels, the panel shall transmit its report, including its findings and recommendations and those of such division, along with such division's proposed revised plan for reunification or other permanency plan, if necessary, to the court and the parents within five days after the review. Any party may request a hearing on the proposed revised plan in writing within five days after receiving a copy of such plan. Following such initial review, additional periodic reviews shall be held at six-month intervals. The foster parents, if any, of a child and any preadoptive parent or relative providing care for the child shall be provided with notice of and an opportunity to be heard in any review or hearing to be held with respect to the child, except that this provision shall not be construed to require that any foster parent, preadoptive parent, or relative providing care for the child be made a party to such a review or hearing solely on the basis of such notice and opportunity to be heard.

(l) If no hearing is requested or scheduled by the court on its own motion, the court shall review the proposed revised plan and enter a supplemental order incorporating a revised plan as part of its disposition in the case. In the event that a hearing is held, the court shall, after hearing evidence, enter a supplemental order incorporating all elements that the court finds essential in the proposed revised plan. The judge's supplemental order shall be entered within a reasonable time from the conclusion of the hearing or expiration of the time for the hearing to be requested and shall also provide one of the following:

(1) That the child return to the home of his or her parents, legal guardian, or custodian with or without court imposed conditions;

(2) That the child continue in the current custodial placement and that the current placement is appropriate for the child's needs; or

(3) That the child continue in the current custodial placement but that the current placement plan is no longer appropriate for the child's needs and direct the department to devise another plan within available resources. The new plan must be submitted within ten days for court approval. Copies of any court approved revised plan shall be furnished to all parties.

In the event that the judicial citizen review panel determines that the parents have unjustifiably failed to comply with the ordered plan designed to reunite the family and that such failure is significant enough to warrant consideration of termination of parental rights, the panel may make a recommendation to the guardian ad litem of the child, the Division of Family and Children Services of the Department of Human Resources, and the intake officer of the court that a petition for termination of parental rights should be prepared. Any such party or officer of the court shall file a petition if, upon examination, they find sufficient evidence. In the event that no guardian ad litem has been appointed when the judicial citizen review panel recommends that a petition to terminate parental rights be filed, the court shall have the authority to appoint a guardian ad litem who shall have the duty to determine whether termination proceedings should be commenced.

(m) In the event that a child has been in foster care under the responsibility of the Division of Family and Children Services of the Department of Human Resources for 15 of the most recent 22 months, or, if the court has determined a child to be an abandoned infant, as set forth in subsection (b) of Code Section 15-11-94, or has made a determination that the parent has committed murder of another child of the parent; committed voluntary manslaughter of another child of the parent; aided or abetted, attempted, conspired, or solicited to commit murder or voluntary manslaughter of another child of the parent, or committed felony assault that has resulted in serious bodily injury to the child or to another child of the parent, the department shall file a petition to terminate the parental rights of the child's parents or, if such a petition has been filed by another party, seek to be joined as a party to the petition, and, concurrently, to identify, recruit, process, and approve a qualified family for an adoption, unless, at the option of the Division of Family and Children Services of the Department of Human Resources, the child is being cared for by a relative; the case plan documents a compelling reason for determining that filing such a petition would not be in the best interests of the child; or the Division of Family and Children Services of the Department of Human Resources has not provided to the family of the child, consistent with the specific time frames for the accomplishment of the case plan goals, such services deemed necessary for the safe return of the child to the child's home.

(n) The court which made the order may extend its duration for not more than 12 months if:

(1) A hearing is held upon motion of the Division of Family and Children Services of the Department of Human Resources prior to the expiration of the order, which hearing shall, after the making of appropriate findings of fact, determine the permanency plan for the child. Such a permanency plan shall state whether and, if applicable, when the child shall be returned to the parent or referred for termination of parental rights and placed for adoption or referred for legal guardianship. In cases where the Division of Family and Children Services of the Department of Human Resources has documented to the court a compelling reason for determining that it would not be in the best interest of the child to return home, be referred for termination of parental rights, be placed for adoption, or be placed with a fit and willing relative or with a legal guardian, the permanency plan shall state that the child shall be placed in another planned permanent living arrangement. The permanency plan shall also state whether reunification services, if in effect, should be continued. With respect to a child placed out of state, procedural safeguards shall be applied as to whether the out-of-state placement continues to be appropriate and in the best interest of the child, and, in the case of a child who has attained age 16, the services needed to assist the child to make a transition from foster care to independent living. Procedural safeguards shall also be applied with respect to parental rights pertaining to the removal of the child from the home of his or her parents, to a change in the child's placement, and to any determination affecting visitation privileges of parents;

(2) Reasonable notice of the factual basis of the motion and of the hearing and opportunity to be heard are given to the parties affected, including foster parents, if any, of a child and any preadoptive parent or relative providing care for the child except that this provision shall not be construed to require that any foster parent, preadoptive parent, or relative providing care for the child be made a party to such a review or hearing solely on the basis of such notice and opportunity to be heard; and

(3) The court finds that the extension is necessary to accomplish the purposes of the order extended.

(o) Except as otherwise provided by law, any other order of disposition in a proceeding involving delinquency, unruliness, or deprivation, except in an order involving the appointment of a guardian of the person or property of a child, continues in force for not more than two years. The court may sooner terminate its order or extend its duration for further periods. An order of extension may be made if:

(1) A hearing is held prior to the expiration of the order upon motion of a party or on the court's own motion;

(2) Reasonable notice of the factual basis of the motion and of the hearing and opportunity to be heard are given to the parties affected; (3) The court finds that the extension is necessary to accomplish the purposes of the order extended; and

(4) The extension does not exceed two years from the expiration of the prior order.

(p) Except as provided in Code Section 15-11-70, the court may terminate an order of disposition or extension prior to its expiration, on or without an application of a party, if it appears to the court that the purposes of the order have been accomplished.

(q) Unless otherwise provided by law, when the child reaches 21 years of age all orders affecting him or her then in force terminate and he or she is discharged from further obligation or control.

Saturday May 23 10:45 EDT


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