SB 292 was introduced at the end of the 2009 legislative session as the Child Protection and Public Safety Act. The intent of this important legislation is to comprehensively modernize and streamline the current stature concerning the juvenile code found in O.C.G.A. Title 15. The current code was adopted in 1971 and has been revised several times since. It is considered so out of date that the Georgia General Assembly passed a resolution in 2005 calling for its complete overhaul. SB 292 did not pass in the 2010 session, but was introduced purely to move the legislation forward in the next session.
The code needs to be modernized for several reasons. It is so confusing and disorganized that even the most experienced judges and lawyers have trouble using it. It must be updated to comply with federal law dealing with child welfare and the federal funds attached to those laws. The revision of the code reflects the best practices of other states and evidence based practices of child welfare. We know more about child development than we did when the code was developed in 1971. This understanding needs to be reflected in Georgia's laws.
The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on this piece of legislation on Monday, August 9th at 2 pm at the Capitol in room 450. They will be hearing testimony on Article 6 in the code to create a new approach for intervening with children who are currently considered "unruly." Children in Need of Services (CHINS) include children who have committed an act that would not be against the law but for the fact that they are children, such as skipping school, running away from home, drinking alcohol, and violating curfew. This would also include children who are "habitually disobedient" to their parents and place themselves or others in unsafe circumstances through their behavior. The courts now intervene with these children as if they were delinquency cases rather than in the more holistic, service-oriented approach of the rewrite.
This approach has shown to be more effective, more cost efficient and more protective of public safety.
Normer Adams is Executive Director of the Georgia Association of Homes and Services for Children and a writer, speaker and consultant on family and social issues such as advocacy, lobbying, and child welfare policy. Learn more at www.gahsc.org/