What Does Juvenile Dependency Mean? Answered By Los Angeles Juvenile Dependency Lawyers Against DCFS
Parents thrown into the midst of a juvenile dependency case will often experience many overwhelming emotions. They often wonder what they did wrong, where their child will be placed, and when they will see their kids again.
The answers to many of these questions lie with their juvenile dependency lawyer, the assigned social worker, and other key figures involved in the dependency case.
What Does Juvenile Dependency Mean?
Juvenile dependency refers to the protection and safeguarding of children. Simply knowing what juvenile dependency means in a general sense, however, may not be as helpful as knowing what it means for you and your child in dependency court.
When a juvenile dependency case is initiated, this means that a report has been made against the parent or guardian, and a social worker believes your child is in danger of injury, neglect, abuse, or abandonment.
What Does Dependency Mean in Juvenile Court Cases?
Dependency in the context of a juvenile court case means that the dependency court will decide on who will be responsible for your child moving forward.
The initial hearing is called the Detention Hearing. At this hearing, if the judge in the dependency court determines that the abuse or neglect allegations have any merit, then your child will become a dependent of the court, and the dependency case remains open. However, the case will be dismissed if the court finds no merit to the allegations.
If a Juvenile Dependency case is opened, then the Department of Children and Family Services social worker (also known as DCFS) or the CPS social worker (also known as Child Protective Services) will then place your child with a family member or a foster family while the juvenile dependency case is ongoing.
Dependency proceedings can last anywhere between 6 months to 18 months. The court’s job is to act in the child’s best interest.
Who is Involved in a Juvenile Dependency Case?
Any juvenile dependency case involves high stakes. Almost everyone feels passionately about the safety of children, so when you’re going through a case like this, you can expect to interact with many different people from numerous agencies.
Social workers from the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), police officers, and dependency court judges are all likely to have some part in your case. Other vital people may include doctors, family members, teachers, or neighbors.
If you decide to retain legal counsel, your child dependency attorney or CPS lawyer will also have a significant role to play throughout the process. Your lawyer will be your representative from start to finish and ensure that your parental rights are enforced and protected.
What Role Do Social Workers Have in Dependency Cases?
Social workers play a prominent role in any juvenile dependency case in Los Angeles. Social workers initiate dependency hearings, so they are often the ones that start the official court process by filing a petition.
The petition filed by the social workers to the dependency court will list the names of the parents and children involved, as well as offer a description of the abuse or neglect that has been alleged.
A DCFS or CPS social worker will also perform interviews with you, your child, and others to gain information about the circumstances surrounding the dependency case. Then, the social worker will use the interviews and the results of their investigation to create a report.
This report will have a significant impact on your case. The report often includes recommendations for who should be taking care of your child until the next hearing and what actions you should take to resolve the issues the social worker has identified.
What Happens at the Initial Dependency Court Hearing?
A judge will make a temporary determination regarding your child’s placement in either your home or someone else’s. If it is decided that your child will remain in the care of another person during the pendency of your case, you may still be able to have visitations.
The judge will decide your visitation rights during this first hearing, which is why it is crucial to have a juvenile dependency attorney who knows the law every step of the way. The child dependency court judge will decide if the social worker made a reasonable attempt to keep you and your child together.
How Do Dependency Lawyers Help Parents and Children?
Your dependency lawyer (also referred to as a DCFS lawyer / CPS lawyer) acts as your family advocate. A child dependency attorney’s focus is to ensure that parents and their children are treated fairly and unbiasedly, and that reunification is prioritized.
Experienced dependency attorneys will take the time to understand you and your family to best advocate for your reunification with your child and explain to the court why reunification is in the child’s best interests.
Do Social Workers Help in the Reunification Process?
In California, parents are supposed to be provided with as many as 12 to 18 months of services in order to work toward reunification with their children. There are very few exceptions to this rule.
A dependency lawyer in Los Angeles can help ensure you’re receiving the necessary assistance from the social worker in charge of your case. DCFS also provides much-needed services for families who are working toward reunification. These include:
The services offered by these agencies are intended to address the common issues at the center of many juvenile dependency cases. Utilizing these programs should also show the social worker and judge that you are invested in reunification and willing to do whatever is necessary to have your child back at home with you.
Who Makes the Decision on Reunification?
Because so many people are involved in a juvenile dependency case, there is often confusion about who makes which decisions. Ultimately, a dependency court judge will determine if you’ve met the standards for being reunited with your child.
How closely you’ve followed the case plan created by the social worker, along with your attorney, will be factored into the decision of whether or not it is safe for your child to return home.
It is crucial to participate in support services that are offered by the social worker and the other agencies involved in your juvenile dependency case. Doing so helps you address the difficulties that necessitated the case, and it helps prove your dedication to your child to the judge and social worker.
The goal is to show the judge that you are a fit parent and that having your child reunited with you is what is ultimately best for your child.
TOP-RATED JUVENILE DEPENDENCY LAWYERS IN LOS ANGELES
You deserve to have a lawyer who will help you fight to get your children back. If you are dealing with a Juvenile Dependency case, Criminal case, DCFS case or CPS case, you need the juvenile dependency attorneys at ALL Trial Lawyers by your side.
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We know how the juvenile court process in Los Angeles works. We have handled hundreds of juvenile dependency cases and we know how to handle your case. We care about the outcome of your case, and we will fight diligently for you and your children.
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