Juvenile Dependency Cases
A dependent child is one who is neglected, abused, or abandoned. This can result when a child:
- Does not receive proper parental care or control, subsistence, education as required by law, or other care or control necessary for his physical, mental, or emotional health or morals
- Is placed for care or adoption in violation of law
- Is without a parent, guardian, or custodian
The safety, well-being, and best interests of dependent children are within the jurisdiction of the Juvenile Court. The Juvenile Court does not rule on or pursue the prosecution of parents or others who neglect, abuse, or abandon children.
Generally, the Clarke County Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS) investigates and files juvenile dependency complaints. The Georgia Attorney General's Office represents DFCS in court through a Special Assistant Attorney General (SAAG). A shelter care hearing is scheduled when the originating complaint is presented to the court.
Children who are the subject of a complaint alleging dependency have a right to be represented in court by guardian ad litem (GAL), a person who has a responsibility to investigate the case and recommend an outcome that is in the best interest of the child. Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) may also be assigned to assist dependent children.
The legal parent – who is alleged to have neglected, abused, or abandoned their child – has a right to be represented by counsel in a juvenile dependency case. If the parent cannot afford to hire counsel without undue financial hardship, the court will appoint counsel free of charge.