Dallas Model Court

Brief History

The Paulding County Juvenile Court in Dallas, Georgia, became a Model Court in 2008 with Judge Sandra W. Miller serving as the Lead Judge.  The Model Court collaborative consists of Judge Miller and stakeholders including supervisors and case managers of the Georgia Department of Human Services, Division of Family and  Children Services (DFCS), parent attorneys, children’s attorneys (GALs), CASA, the local  Department’s attorney (Special Assistant Attorney General who is contracted out of the Attorney General’s Office), and service providers.  The Dallas Model Court also has close communication with the Georgia Court Improvement Initiative (CII).

Leadership

Current Lead Judge: Judge Sandra Miller

Past Lead Judge(s): 

Court website – www.Paulding.gov

Successfully Implemented Signature Best Practices

1.  First 48

The Dallas Model Court promotes front-end loading of services through the Paulding County Community-Based Reunification and Preservation Program, also called the “First 48.”  The “First 48” refers to the first 48 days after a child has been placed in foster care – the program is a step-by-step protocol for child welfare agency staff who are working with the court and the family. The program focuses on providing parents with the opportunity to achieve case plan goals within 6 months.  The Model Court is exploring a university-court partnership with faculty at Georgia State University to assess the First 48.  The Model Court also promotes diversion. 

2.  Increased Family Time

The Model Court has successfully worked with a community nonprofit, “The Family Alliance of Paulding,” to establish a visitation center to facilitate and increase family time with birth parents and their children.  The Family Visitation Center provides a safe, comfortable and accessible environment in which supervised visitations occur for children and families involved in the juvenile court.  The Center also serves as a hub for a variety of family-related and family support programs including ESL classes, child care scholarships, infant care 101 classes, a mentoring program for youth, life skills classes, and after-school teen activities.

Additional Best Practices and Initiatives Implemented

Early Permanency

Community Differential Response

Current Goals

NATIONAL GOAL:  Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) Compliance & Tribal Engagement

The Dallas Model Court developed a 72-hour checklist for use at the 72-hour hearing following a child’s removal and the checklist specifically includes ICWA questions.  The checklist is followed at every 72-hour hearing.  Each parent is asked if he or she has Indian blood, has any relatives with Indian blood, or has any association, in the past or currently, with an Indian tribe.

STATE GOAL:  Statewide Implementation of Best Practices

Georgia’s Council of Juvenile Court Judges created the Court Improvement Initiative (CII) in 2004 to develop guidelines for best practices in deprivation (dependency) cases.  This Initiative is funded by the Committee on Justice for Children (CJ4C) and has 16 judicial circuits or participating sites throughout the state, including the Dallas Model Court.

Similar to NCJFCJ’s Model Courts Project, the CII calls for participating sites to use judicial leadership, stakeholder collaboration and experimentation to implement best practices to improve systems performance and outcomes for children.  The work of the Initiative proceeds through several standing committees including committees on legal representation, placement stability, foster parents’ notice and right to be heard, and measures for courts.  In addition, participating sites convene twice a year for training and planning summits.  The fall 2012 Summit addressed improving educational outcomes for children and youth in foster care.

LOCAL GOAL:  Child Well-Being on Education

The Dallas Model Court participated in the CII’s spring and fall 2012 meetings.  The fall Summit focused on educational stability and achievement for children and youth in foster care and the Dallas Model Court will thus be focusing on improving educational outcomes for children in foster care in Paulding County.