IN THE INTEREST OF A. M. et al., children.
BARNES, P. J., MERCIER and BROWN, JJ.
Georgia Department of Human Services (the
"Department") appeals the juvenile court's
custody order in this dependency action claiming that the
court exceeded its statutory authority and that the order is
"impermissibly vague and lacks finality." For the
following reasons, we vacate the order and remand the case
review a juvenile court's application of law to
undisputed facts de novo." In the Interest of B.
K., 326 Ga.App. 56 (755 S.E.2d 863) (2014) (citation
omitted). In September 2016, the Department, through the
Newton County Department of Family and Children Services,
filed dependency complaints regarding A. M., then 15 years of
age, and S. M., then 15 years of age. The complaints allege that
A. M. was hospitalized due to abuse from her stepfather,
which included being punched, kicked and hit with a belt,
resulting in perforated bowels and requiring surgical
treatment. According to the complaints, A. M.'s mother
failed to report the injuries to law enforcement and lied to
A. M.'s medical providers about the cause of A. M.'s
injuries. The mother later admitted that the stepfather had
abused the children in the past and had threatened to abuse
her. S. M. has cerebral palsy and A. M. wears a hearing aid
and has speech delays.
juvenile court issued a dependency removal order regarding
the children. Following a preliminary protective hearing, the
court granted temporary custody of the children to the
Department with the mother's consent, ordered that the
stepfather have no contact with the children, and directed
that the mother have only supervised visitation with the
an adjudication hearing, the juvenile court declared that the
children were dependent. The children remained in the
Department's custody until March 29, 2018, when the
juvenile court entered an order returning custody of the
children to the mother. In the reunification order, the
juvenile court stated that the Department "shall make
all transfers and establish any and all therapeutic services
necessary such as family therapy and support for the mother.
The Department shall do whatever it is that helps the mother
and crafts and fashions with the mother what is needed for
the children." The juvenile court also ordered that the
Department would be "financially responsible for the
maintenance and anything necessary regarding the braces of
the children and related dental issues . . . until those
services are concluded successfully for both children."
The juvenile court further ordered that if, after 30 days
"the Department has not completed [its] tasks as
assigned [under the reunification order], [The Department]
will continue to provide after care services until such time
as it is successfully completed to the satisfaction of [the
mother's counsel.]" In the event that the Department
does not give "the mother all she wants, needs or
desires for the children, the mother is directed to get with
Pursuant to OCGA § 15-11-212 (d), the court may conduct
a judicial review of the custody and placement arrangements
of any child previously adjudicated as dependent, and may
order a change in custody, if the court finds such change to
be in the best interest of the child. "Placement or a
change of custody by the court outside [the Department] shall
relieve [the Department] of further responsibility for such
child except for any provision of services ordered by the
court to ensure the continuation of reunification services to
such child's family when appropriate." OCGA §
Department argues that the Juvenile Court exceeded its
statutory authority in the reunification order. The order
imposed specific duties upon the Department to ensure the
continuation of reunification services, such as a requirement
to provide the mother with the children's medical and
education records. These duties imposed by the juvenile court
serve the dual goals of reunification and relieving the
Department of further responsibility, pursuant to OCGA §
15-11-212 (d). However, the requirements that the Department
pay for the children's orthodontist treatment until
completion, that it must do "whatever it is that helps
the mother and crafts and fashions with the mother what is
needed for the children," and that it give the mother
"all she wants, needs or desires for the children,"
appear unrelated to the statutory purpose of
"continuation of reunification services." OCGA
§ 15-11-212 (d). As the order contains provisions that
exceed the purpose of OCGA § 15-11-212 (d), we vacate
the order for reconsideration in accordance with the statute.
See generally In the Interest of A. S., 185 Ga.App.
11, 13 (2) (363 S.E.2d 325) (1987) (the trial court's
order that a parent attend psychological counseling with a
particular psychologist located 50 miles away from the
parent's home was found unreasonable and stricken from
the order.); In the Interest of B. K., 326 Ga.App.
56, 57-59 (755 S.E.2d 863) (2014) (the trial court's
order requiring the Department to make well checks on the
child's custodial guardian even though the child was no
longer placed with the Department was reversed as the order
exceeded statutory authority.).
light of the fact that the juvenile court's judgment has
been vacated and the matter has been remanded with direction,
the remaining enumerated error is moot.
vacated and case remanded with direction.
Barnes, P.J., and Brown, J., concur.