chevron-down Created with Sketch Beta.
July 01, 2012

Child Born to Parent in Agency Custody Was Not Presumed Neglected

The views expressed herein have not been approved by the House of Delegates or the Board of Governors of the American Bar Association, and accordingly, should not be construed as representing the policy of the American Bar Association.

The Georgia Court of Appeals reversed an order finding a child neglected because teenaged mother was herself in agency custody. No evidence was presented that the mother lacked an ability to adequately parent child or that child was being deprived of any necessities because of the circumstances.

In re S.D., 2012 WL 1948788 (Ga. Ct. App.).

Immediately after a child’s birth, the county agency filed a petition alleging the child was deprived because his teenaged mother was in the agency’s custody. The trial court granted the petition, noting the mother was in agency custody, refused to go to school, was unemployed, and lacked independent housing. It also noted the mother had completed parenting classes and her grandmother had been approved as a placement for her and her child upon discharge from the hospital.

At the second hearing, the agency reported the child was placed with his mother in her grandmother’s home. The caseworker testified that even if the child was not in the agency’s custody, the grandmother would receive foster care support payments for his care. The caseworker also testified that the child had suffered no abuse or neglect and the agency was only involved in his case because his mother was in custody such that there was a likelihood of “possible future deprivation.”

A life coach with the Teen Parent Connection testified that she worked with the mother for six months and that the mother had complied with all parenting classes. She further stated that she observed the mother with the child and the mother was “very attentive,” and she did not feel the child was at risk.

The Georgia Court of Appeals reversed, noting that a child cannot be adjudicated dependent without evidence that the child is presently deprived of proper parental care and control. In this case, the record showed the mother was properly caring for the child. Imminent risk of harm, not future possible deprivation, is the proper standard for adjudicating a child

Further, prior records from the mother’s case that she had unspecified behavior problems, even assuming the court could take judicial notice of records from the mother’s case for the child’s case, were never properly admitted into evidence. Thus, it was improper for the juvenile court to consider those records in reaching its conclusions.