The Judicial Citizen Panel Review Program consists of a cross-section of volunteers from the community, appointed by the local Juvenile Court Judge. The purpose of the review is to ensure the children have a safe and permanent home as soon as possible. The volunteers receive 15 hours of training from the Council of Juvenile Court Judges staff. Once they complete the required training, they are sworn in as officers of the court.
These volunteers meet once a month to review cases of children placed into foster care through the court. Panels review the progress of the parent or custodian to see if they are meeting the established goals set by the court, and monitor the welfare of the children. This information is gathered by meeting with parents, children, caseworkers, foster parents, educators, treatment professionals and CASA volunteers, at the panel hearings.
Recommendations are made to the Judge about what should happen next in the case. If reunification is not possible, then the panel may make a recommendation for another form of permanency, such as adoption, placement with a relative, or another planned permanent living arrangement. The Judge has final authority in all matters.
The Citizen Review Panel is made up of four panels of citizens who are responsible for reviewing deprivation cases on a regulated basis. The Panel reviews case plans and also explores visitation and permanency issues. The Juvenile Court took on the responsibility of overseeing the Citizen Review Panel and acting as the local program coordinator. The Judge's office now schedules all cases for review, maintains the Panel files and provides notification to all parties involved in the cases. A new case is scheduled for initial review by the Panel 90 days after adjudication. Subsequently, the case is reviewed every six months until the deprivation is resolved and the child is returned, until parental rights are terminated or the child is permanently placed. In cases of Termination of Parental Rights, cases are reviewed annually.
The Citizen Review Panel is an extension of the Child Placement Project created by the Supreme Court of Georgia in 1995. The project is funded by a grant from the federal government. A year long study of the process of child deprivation cases was done, resulting in a final report with improvement recommendations in 1996. Implementation of the recommendations from 1997 to 2001 resulted in state funding for juvenile courts, providing computers and other tools for better automation of juvenile records, automation of the case planning process, on-going cross-training both on a statewide and local level, the publication of aspirational guidelines for participants in deprivations cases, a video production and published pamphlets for parents about their legal rights in a deprivation case and on-going newsletters and web site updates about deprivation case process improvement. For more information check out the "Supreme Court of Georgia Child Placement Project" link located on the right.