In Georgia, a deprived child is “one who is without proper parental care or control, subsistence, education as required by law, or other care or control necessary for one’s physical, mental or emotional health or morals; or one who has been placed for care or adoption in violation of law; or one who has been abandoned by parents or other legal custodian; or one who is without a parent, guardian or custodian.” (See Georgia Code Section 15-11-2)
‘Child’ means any individual who is: (A) Under the age of 17 years;(B) Under the age of 21 years, who committed an act of delinquency before reaching the age of 17 years, and who has been placed under the supervision of the court or on probation to the court; or (C) Under the age of 18 years, if alleged to be a ‘deprived child’ or a ‘status offender’ as defined by this Code section. A deprivation case can be initiated by several different parties including DFACS, Police, schools, relatives, or medical providers.
In some instances deprivations are committed by teenage parents or even adult parents who are scared or do not know how to deal with an infant or child. In order to save some of these children, Georgia is one of the many states that have a safe haven law to give children a chance.
Georgia’s safe haven law can be found in Georgia Code Section 19-10A-4. It says, “A mother shall not be prosecuted for the crimes of cruelty to a child, Code Section 16-5-70; contributing to the delinquency, unruliness, or deprivation of a child, Code Section 16-12-1; or abandonment of a dependent child, Code Section 19-10-1, because of the act of leaving her newborn child in the physical custody of an employee, agent, or member of the staff of a medical facility who is on duty, whether they’re in a paid or volunteer position, provided that the newborn child is no more than one week old and the mother shows proof of her identity, if available, to the person with whom the newborn is left and provides her name and address.” In other words, in Georgia it is not a crime, and you cannot be prosecuted for leaving a newborn at the hospital.
The safe haven law is just one example of how the state can combat depravations and it is only where infants are concerned. Other ways that the state tries to help families who may enter the legal system because of depravation are Case Plans and Homestead Services.
A Case Plan is “a written agreement that defines those actions that will allow a family to achieve a level of functioning, ensures protection and safety of children and eliminates, or significantly decreases, the risk of maltreatment. It includes developing measurable and specific outcomes directly related to the maltreatment and to risk reduction. Outcomes/goals are broken down into specific steps with time frames for accomplishment and review.” (http://dhs.georgia.gov)
Homestead Services are the Department of Family and Children’s Services’ (DFACS) “most intensive family preservation service. It is a contracted service. It is a family focused, crisis-oriented, short-term (180 days), intensive in-home counseling program for families with children at risk of foster care placement. Homestead Services may also be provided to families who are ready for reunification.” (http://dhs.georgia.gov)
Ultimately, if the family preservation plans do not work parental rights can be terminated. What happens when parental rights are terminated? “An order terminating parental rights ends all rights and obligations of the parent with respect to the child and/or the child to the parent, including the right of inheritance. The parent will have no right to object or not object to the future adoption of that child into another home. The termination of one parent’s rights with respect to the child has no effect on the rights of another legal parent to the care and control of that child.” (http://dhs.georgia.gov)
So avoiding having a deprivation case initiated against you is important because the implications could be dire. Once that has happened, though, deprivation proceedings can be tricky and hard to navigate, they also move fast, much faster than cases in the adult criminal or civil system. If your child has been taken away, and/or you are facing a deprivation case we can help. Call us today at (404) 287-2393 for a consultation.
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