Court Hearings for the Permanent Placement of Children - Georgia

Date:

Schedule of Hearings

Citation: Ann. Code §§ 15-11-216; 15-11-230

All cases of children in the custody of the Division of Family and Children Services shall be initially reviewed by the court within 75 days following the removal of a child from his or her home and adjudicated as a dependent child. An additional periodic review shall be held within 4 months following the initial review and shall be conducted by the court or by judicial citizen review panels established by the court, as the court directs. The court shall have the discretion to schedule any subsequent review hearings as necessary.

The court shall hold a permanency plan hearing to determine the future permanent legal status of each child in division custody. The hearing, which considers in-State and out-of-State placement options for the child, shall be held as follows:

  • No later than 30 days after the division has submitted a written report to the court that does not contain a plan for reunification services
  • For children under age 7 at the time a petition is filed, no later than 9 months after such child has entered foster care
  • For children age 7 and older at the time a petition is filed, no later than 12 months after the child has entered foster care
  • For a child in a sibling group whose members were removed from the home at the same time and in which one member of the sibling group was under age 7 at the time a petition for dependency was filed, no later than 9 months after the child has entered foster care

After the initial permanency plan hearing has occurred, a permanency plan hearing shall be held no less frequently than every 6 months during the time the child continues in division custody, or more frequently as deemed necessary by the court, until the court determines that such child's permanency plan and goal have been achieved.

Persons Entitled to Attend Hearings

Citation: Ann. Code §§ 15-11-108; 15-11-2; 15-11-109; 15-11-230

The court shall give to all parties written notice of the date, time, place, and purpose of hearings or reviews regarding a dependent child. The term 'party' includes the State, a child, parent, guardian, legal custodian, or other person subject to any judicial proceeding under this chapter.

In advance of each hearing or review, the division shall give written notice of the date, time, place, and purpose of the review or hearing, including the right to be heard, to the caregiver of a child, the foster parent of a child, any preadoptive parent, or any relative providing care for a child. Notice of a hearing or review shall not be construed to require a legal custodian, foster parent, preadoptive parent, or relative caring for a child to be made a party to the hearing or review solely on the basis of such notice and opportunity to be heard.

A child adjudicated as a dependent child; his or her parent, guardian, or legal custodian; an attorney or guardian ad litem, if any; foster parents, if there are foster parents; any preadoptive parent or relatives providing care for the child; and other parties shall be given written notice of a permanency plan hearing at least 5 days in advance of the hearing and shall be advised that the permanency plan recommended by the division will be submitted to the court for consideration.

Determinations Made at Hearings

Citation: Ann. Code § 15-11-216

At any review hearing, the paramount concern shall be the dependent child's health and safety. At each hearing, the court shall determine the following:

  • Whether the child continues to be a dependent child
  • Whether the existing case plan is still the best case plan for the child and his or her family and whether any changes need to be made, including whether a concurrent case plan for nonreunification is appropriate
  • The extent of compliance with the case plan by all participants
  • The appropriateness of any recommended changes to the child's placement
  • Whether appropriate progress is being made on the permanency plan
  • Whether all required services are being provided to the child; his or her foster parents if there are foster parents; and his or her parent, guardian, or legal custodian
  • Whether visitation is appropriate and, if so, approve and establish a reasonable visitation schedule consistent with the age and developmental needs of the child
  • For a child who is age 14 or older, whether the services needed to assist the child to make a transition from foster care to independent living are being provided
  • Whether reasonable efforts continue to be made to prevent or eliminate the necessity of the child's removal from his or her home and to reunify the family after removal of a child, unless reasonable efforts were not required

If at any review subsequent to the initial 75 day review the court finds that there is a lack of substantial progress towards completion of the case plan, the court shall order the division to develop a case plan for nonreunification or a concurrent case plan contemplating nonreunification. At the time of each review of a child division custody, the division shall notify the court whether and when it intends to proceed with the termination of parental rights.

At each review hearing held with respect to a child who remains placed in a qualified residential treatment program (QRTP), the department shall submit evidence documenting the following:

  • Ongoing assessment of the strengths and needs of the child continues to support the determination that the needs of the child cannot be met through placement in a foster family home.
  • Placement in a QRTP provides the most effective and appropriate level of care for the child in the least restrictive environment.
  • Placement in a QRTP is consistent with the short- and long-term goals for the child, as specified in the permanency plan for the child.
  • The specific treatment or service needs will be met for the child in the placement within the length of time the child is expected to need the treatment or services.
  • The division has made efforts to prepare the child to return home or to be placed with a fit and willing relative, a legal guardian, an adoptive parent, or in a foster family home.

Permanency Options

Citation: Ann. Code § 15-11-231

At the time of the permanency hearing, the division shall submit a permanency plan for the child that shall include whether and when the child shall be referred to one of the following options:

  • Returned to the parent or parents
  • Referred for termination of parental rights and adoption
  • Referred for legal guardianship
  • Placed permanently with a fit and willing relative
  • In the case in which the division has documented a compelling reason that none of the options identified above would be in the best interests of the child who has reached age 16, whether, and if applicable, when, the child shall be placed in another planned permanent living arrangement