A juvenile dependency case usually involves children who have been abandoned, neglected, or hurt by their parents, foster parents, or other caretakers. Juvenile dependency cases may also be brought in situations where the parents/caretakers are unable to meet a child's special needs.
A juvenile dependency case usually begins when someone files a report with a law enforcement agency or social service agency claiming that a child has been neglected, abused, or abandoned. If the agency finds that the child's well-being is endangered, the child may be physically removed from their home and placed in the care of a relative or foster parent until the issue can be addressed in juvenile court.
A social worker then has two days to file a petition asking the court to make the child a "dependent of the court." A hearing will be scheduled where the judge will issue orders about how the child will be supervised, cared for, and who will have custody over them.
If the judge decides that your son or daughter is a "dependent of the court," the court can mandate that:
- Your child must live in a different home under court supervision.
- Your child can return to your home but still remain under court supervision.
If you are a parent who feels that your child has been unfairly taken away from you due to a juvenile dependency matter, it is important that you acquire legal representation. You have a right to a trial where you can make your case, and a family law attorney can represent you in court. Your child will also likely be appointed a lawyer to represent them.
If there is a trial, the following could take place:
- The court schedules the trial date at the first hearing and notifies you of the date and time.
- The social worker assigned to your case files a report with the court that details your case and recommends where your child should live until the next hearing.
- The social worker works with you to present a case plan to the court which may include:
- Family and individual counseling.
- Courses on parenting.
- Substance abuse treatment.
- Scheduled visits with your child.
- Services that will help reunite you with your child (if your child is taken away from you).
- Resources that will allow your son or daughter to be assigned a guardian or be adopted if parent-child reunification becomes impossible.
A judge will reevaluate your case twice a year, and a hearing will be scheduled every six months. If, during the six months, you did not follow your case plan or communicate with your child in any way and your child was under three years of age when she was removed from your care, the court can decide to terminate any services that could help reunite you with your son or daughter. If reunification services are ended, a hearing will be scheduled within four months where a "permanent plan" will be set up for your child to be adopted, placed in foster care, or appointed a legal guardian. Your parental rights will be terminated.
You can ask your lawyer to help you develop this permanent plan. If you do not wish to be reunited with your child, a lawyer can also advise you about surrendering your parental rights.
At Sagaria Law, P.C., we understand that juvenile dependency is a sensitive matter and we are here to assist you. Among our main goals, when working with juvenile dependency matters, we are committed to:
- Protecting the children.
- Giving them stability.
- Keeping families together.
- Protecting a parents' rights.
- Treating everyone with dignity.
- Respecting diversity.