Frequently Asked Questions
Who can I call if I’m concerned about the safety of a child?
If you become concerned that a child is being abused or neglected, please call the Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS) at 1-855-422-4453 (1-855-GACHILD).
If a child is in immediate danger, please contact 911 or local law enforcement first, and then contact DFCS.
What role does OCA play in a child abuse case?
OCA is not a first responder agency for child abuse and neglect.
Rather, OCA provides oversight for DFCS as they work to protect children from abuse and neglect. When Georgia citizens are concerned that DFCS is not taking appropriate actions to protect a child or to provide needed services to children and their families, OCA serves in an Ombudsman capacity to investigate and evaluate whether DFCS has taken appropriate action and whether DFCS has an appropriate plan in place to help resolve concerns with a family.
Are OCA and DFCS part of the same agency?
No. OCA is an independent state government agency. DFCS is a division of the Georgia Department of Human Services (DHS).
Can OCA help me with my DFCS case?
Possibly. OCA has the legal authority to provide oversight of DFCS. Once your complaint is received, it will be reviewed and a decision will be made concerning how the issue will be addressed. Depending on the specific circumstances, OCA may be able to assist you in resolving your concern.
Can you share with me information of my DFCS case?
No. Due to confidentiality laws, OCA staff cannot disclose any information they read in a DFCS case file.
How do I file a complaint with OCA?
There are two ways to file a complaint with OCA.
One option is to complete and submit an online complaint form detailing your situation. Upon submission, a staff member will review and you will be contacted for follow-up to let you know the next steps that we will take in response to your complaint.
The other option is to call our office directly (404-656-4200) and discuss your case with one of our friendly staff members.
Will my name be disclosed if I make a complaint on DFCS?
Absolutely not. OCA staff will NOT reveal the source of the complaint to DFCS. Additionally, complaints can be anonymously submitted to OCA.
I am concerned about DFCS’ performance during a case but I am not ready to contact OCA. What can I do prior to engaging OCA?
If you are not ready to involve OCA to resolve your concern, you can attempt to resolve the concern directly with the County DFCS office that has caused the concerns. We would suggest contacting a Supervisor, an Administrator, or a County Director as necessary.
Where can I obtain a copy of DFCS’ policies and procedures?
DFCS’ policies and procedures are available on a website maintained by the Department of Human Services. It can be accessed via this link.
Can OCA provide legal assistance to me?
OCA is unable to provide legal assistance or representation to members of the public. You can obtain free or reduced cost legal services from Atlanta Legal Aid if you live in Fulton County, DeKalb County, Clayton County, Cobb County, or Gwinnett County. You can contact Atlanta Legal Aid at 404-524-5811.
If you do not live in those Counties, you can obtain free or reduced cost legal services from the Georgia Legal Services program. You can contact Georgia Legal Services at 404-206-5175.
If you need to hire an attorney and you are unsure where to find one that specializes in the area of law that you need assistance with, please visit the State Bar of Georgia's website for a state directory or for contact information for your local bar association.
Can OCA help me with a case that does not involve DFCS or Juvenile Court proceedings?
OCA is charged with providing assistance to the public to resolve concerns with cases involving children who have been abused or neglected. Though we are unable to provide direct help with other matters, we are happy to help you find the an organization that can assist you.
How can I become a Guardian ad Litem in cases that involve child abuse and neglect?
Cases involving abuse and neglect are referred to as dependency cases. Georgia’s juvenile courts have jurisdiction over dependency cases. Before serving as a Guardian ad Litem in a dependency case, you must complete training to prepare you for the role. You have the option of completing training that is either directly offered by OCA or training offered by another organization that is approved by OCA.
Do I have to be an attorney to serve as a Guardian ad Litem?
No. A Judge may appoint an attorney or a non-attorney to serve as a Guardian ad Litem, as long as that person has received the legally required training.
I am currently a Guardian ad Litem in Juvenile Court. Does my training qualify me for Superior Court?
The training requirements for Guardians ad Litem who serve in Domestic Relations cases in Superior Court are governed by Superior Court Rule 24.9. While there are elements common to the training for both Juvenile Court and Superior Court Guardians ad litem, there are additional elements required in the Superior Court training that are not required for Juvenile Court. We suggest contacting the assistant or staff attorney for the Chief Superior Court Judge in your circuit or the Clerk of Court to inquire about available training.
How can a Guardian ad Litem become involved in my child’s case?
Generally, Guardians ad Litem are appointed at the discretion of the Judge presiding over a child’s case. However, there are situations when the law compels a Judge to appoint a Guardian ad Litem. Georgia Law, for example, requires a Judge to appoint a Guardian ad Litem for a child’s Dependency case in Juvenile court.
If a Guardian ad Litem has not been appointed for your child’s case, we suggest contacting your attorney for advice on requesting that the Judge appoint a Guardian ad Litem to the case.
Who can I contact if I am concerned with the performance of a Guardian ad Litem in a juvenile court proceeding?
A Guardian ad Litem (GAL) is appointed to a case by a Judge to assist with determining which actions would serve the best interests of the children involved. Both attorneys and non-attorneys are able to serve as Guardians ad Litem. The Court Appointed Special Advocate program (CASA) has non-attorney volunteers who serve as Guardians ad Litem in Juvenile Court.
If the Guardian ad Litem is an attorney, an ethics complaint can be filed with the State Bar of Georgia or the concerning actions can be reported to the Judge who appointed the Guardian ad Litem.
If the Guardian ad Litem is affiliated with CASA, we recommend contacting the CASA program for assistance with resolving the concern or reporting the matter to the Judge who appointed the Guardian ad Litem.
If the Guardian ad Litem is not an attorney and not affiliated with CASA, we suggest that you report the concerning actions to the Judge.
If you are represented by legal counsel and intend to make a report of your concerns to the Judge, we suggest that you discuss this matter with your legal counsel prior to making the report. If you remain concerned after utilizing the above suggestions, please contact our office and we will assist you with finding the best available resolution.
Where can I get more information on preventing child deaths?
There are a number of resources available at the county, state and national level. Many agencies and organizations offer training, funding and support services for local prevention efforts. Please visit the Prevention section of our website or contact OCA for more information.
How does Child Fatality Review Committee (CFRC) differ from the Protocol (f/k/a Child Abuse Protocol) Committee?
Both the CFRC and the Protocol Committee are mandated by O.C.G.A. 19-15, however they are separate committees with separate functions. There is often an overlap between the members that sit on each of the different committees; however, it is important to note the different functions of each committee.
Under O.C.G.A. 19-15-2, the Protocol Committee is responsible for establishing a written protocol to address procedures to be used in the county when investigating and prosecuting cases arising from alleged child abuse. The Protocol Committee should also address the methods to be used in coordinating treatment programs for the perpetrator, the family and the child.
The Protocol Committee has an emphasis on child abuse and exploitation cases of children who are still alive. The CFRC has an emphasis on child deaths, regardless of whether the death resulted from child maltreatment.
Please refer to the Model Protocol located under "Protocols & Resources".
Where can I get mandated reporter training?
You can obtain free mandated reporter training at this link.
Do I need mandatory reporter training?
O.C.G.A § 19-7-5 provides information on which activities and scenarios necessitate a report of child abuse and neglect. We recommend that any organization, business, private professional or volunteer who interacts with minor children participate in training that provides information on how to identify signs of child abuse and neglect as well as how to make a report of suspected child abuse and neglect.
How can I become a foster parent?
My child is not happy living with her custodial parent. At what age can she decide to live with me?
In a pending custody matter, a child can select which parent they would like to live with after attaining the age of 14. The Judge will allow the child to live with her selected parent as long as the Judge does not find that living with that parent is against the best interest of the child.