Juvenile court is rarely an easy situation for anyone involved, especially when child protective services get involved. With stress and anxiety comes fear and confusion. Parents and children alike must understand what it means when they get notice of juvenile dependency proceedings. You should prepare yourself for the worst-case scenario to occur even if the allegations are false.
Often confused with juvenile delinquency, juvenile dependency is the section of the court system that handles cases where parents are under investigation for abuse and/or neglect.
This type of case begins when someone calls Child Protective Services with allegations of child abuse or neglect. This can even happen if the parents have been institutionalized or incarcerated leaving the children unattended.
Dependency is a sort of rehabilitation for families with promising results. It gives abused children a chance to get out of situations. It also helps children in these desperate situations get the support and resources that they need in order to succeed.
Parents that are dealing with a juvenile dependency issue are forced to take responsibility for their actions. They’re given the chance to step up and become productive members of society before allowing them to bring their children home.
What Happens During the Juvenile Dependency Proceedings?
There are several things that you can expect to happen during juvenile dependency proceedings.
In an emergency, the child gets taken from the home or placed into a temporary foster placement until the allegations of abuse get investigated. Pre-removal methods include plans for family maintenance or family reunification.
Family Maintenance means that services are provided to the family to correct the issue they might be having. In this case, the child stays in the home. Family Reunification means that the child gets taken from the home while the family takes measures to make the home safe for the child’s return.
Investigation Takes Place
Social services investigation will occur. Based on the findings, the case will either get closed or a dependency petition will get filed. There are three findings that might come from the investigation, including:
A petition may get filed if the results of the investigation are substantiated.
Initial Hearing Takes Place
The initial hearing (also known as a detention hearing) takes place soon after the filing of the petition. At this hearing, the judge will decide if the child’s safety requires a more permanent removal from the home until legal proceedings occur.
Jurisdiction Hearing Takes Place
The jurisdiction hearing then takes place to give parents a chance to understand the allegations against them. The court reviews all of the evidence and will determine if the allegations are true. It’s generally held within 30 days of the petition being filed.
Disposition Hearing Takes Place
If the allegations are true, the court will determine whether the child will remain out of home for a longer period of time or if they can go back to their family. In addition to figuring out child placement, the judge may make orders regarding visitation arrangements or non-criminal restraining orders.
Six Month Review Hearing
The cases get reviewed every six months to make sure that the child is doing well in their placement and the parent(s) are making progress with the reunification plan. A decision will be made for them to stay in care or go home.
Within 12 months of the decision to place the child in foster care, the court will decide if they can go home or the reunification plan ends. If the children can’t go home, a plan for permanence begins. The child becomes eligible for adoption, legal guardianship, or a planned, permanent arrangement.
Selection and Implementation Hearing
Adoption becomes the preferred solution for the court in the months following reunification termination. At the selection and implementation hearing, the county will begin to look for an adoptive home for the child. This hearing takes place 120 days after termination.
How Does a Child Become a Dependent of the Court?
A child becomes a dependent of the court when they have a high risk of abuse and/or neglect by a parent or guardian. It can also occur when the parent(s) failed to protect the child from neglectful or abusive behaviors.
What Happens Once a Child Becomes a Dependent of the Court?
Once a child becomes a dependent of the court, they will likely be removed from the home. The plan approved by the court will be followed to ensure that the child is either removed from the home permanently or given the chance to be reunified with their family at a later date.
What is a Notice for a Dependent Child?
The Notice for a Dependent Child is the paperwork that must be sent to certain people in the event in which a child becomes a dependent of the court to inform them of the investigation and hearings. The documentation will have a copy of the petition attached.
Who Will Receive a Notice?
When a petition is filed, the social worker assigned to your case must inform several people, including:
The mother, father, or legal guardian
The child (as long as they are over 10 years old)
Any known sibling of the child (as long as they are over 10 years old)
Any adult relative in the county (if the parents are unreachable)
If applicable, legal officials may also need to be notified, including:
The attorney of the parents/legal guardian
The child’s attorney
The probate department of the court that appointed legal guardianship
The notice will not be given to parents who’ve had their parental rights terminated.
Juvenile Dependency Proceedings in California
Juvenile dependency proceedings can be difficult to navigate and cause feelings of fear or doubt, especially as a child in the home or a parent caught completely off-guard by the allegations. Your CPS attorney will be able to answer any questions that you might have.