If the Department of Social Services has removed your child from the family home, it's important that you work with our highly-skilled San Diego Family Law Attorney who can help you navigate this complex legal process. Here's what you should know about Juvenile Dependency and what you can expect from this type of legal process.
What is Juvenile Dependency?
Once a report of suspected abuse or neglect has been received, the Department of Social Services will open a case to evaluate the authenticity of these claims. These types of accusations can come from a variety of sources, including:
- Child Care Workers
- Psychiatrists and Therapists
- Concerned Citizens
If a report of child abuse is received and believed to be valid, a representative from the Department of Social Services will be assigned to investigate the allegations in person within 10 days. In some cases, incoming reports contain potentially emergent situations, in which case, contact is made by the Department of Social Services within 24 hours of receiving the report.
Depending on the details contained in the original report, the Department of Social Services may authorize the representative to conduct unannounced, in-home interviews and assessments. During your in-home evaluation, the social worker will want to interview the child to gauge the child's health and overall well-being.
The social worker will also request interviews with other family members, friends, and various associated professionals to determine if the claims of abuse or neglect can be substantiated. Regardless of the manner in which you are contacted concerning a report of child abuse or neglect, it's important to know and fully understand your rights.
You have the right to have an attorney present with you before you answer any questions or participate in an interview. San Diego Family Law Attorney strongly encourages that you politely assert that right and contact us right away!
When you're faced with such a serious matter as alleged child abuse, you want to make sure you have skilled, it's important to work with a family law attorney who specialize in dependency law,
Some of the most common reasons for a Juvenile Dependency investigation and hearing include:
- The child suffers or has a substantial risk of suffering, grave or serious physical harm exacted by a parent or guardian—whether carried out non-accidentally, willfully and intentionally or through non-action despite knowledge.
- The parent has failed to adequately supervise and protect the child, which has resulted in serious physical harm or illness.
- Parent has demonstrated negligence through failure to provide adequate food, proper clothing, satisfactory shelter, and all necessary medical treatment for the child.
- Parent is unable to provide adequate, continuing care and attention for the child due to mental illness, substance abuse issues, developmental disability, or other extenuating factors.
- Parent's conduct has inflicted serious emotional damage to the child. This may include displays of severe anxiety, clinical depression, aggressive behavior towards others, and self-harming behavior.
- The child has suffered sexual abuse by the parent, or the parent has failed to actively protect the child from being sexually abused.
- Parent is consciously unwilling to provide satisfactory care and attention for the child.
- Parent is incapable of providing satisfactory care due to being incarcerated, institutionalized, or hospitalized.
If sufficient evidence is found that leads investigators to believe the child's safety is in peril and requires the protection of the Court, the Department of Social Services will remove the child from the home and place them in temporary custody. Within 48 hours, a petition will be filed to appear before a Juvenile Dependency Judge to have the child legally declared a dependent of the Court.
Juvenile Dependency Detention Hearing
Once the child has been removed from the home and a petition filed with the Court, a Juvenile Dependency Judge will hold an initial hearing, commonly known as a 'detention hearing'. This preliminary Juvenile Dependency hearing is generally held within 24 hours from the time the petition was filed with the Court.
During the detention hearing, the Court will hear the original grievance and listen to the allegations detailing the suspected neglect or abuse of the child which resulted in a formal complaint with the Department of Social Services. The Judge will also listen to the findings of the Department of Social Services' preliminary investigation and their recommendations as it pertains to the allegations and subsequent actions that should be taken to protect the safety and welfare of the child.
During this initial Juvenile Dependency hearing, the Judge will make a determination as to whether the child shall be returned to the home or remain in the temporary custody of the Department of Social Services until further legal proceedings can take place.
Juvenile Dependency Jurisdiction Hearing
As the child's parent or guardian, you have the right to a fair trial in order to address the allegations of abuse or neglect that have been filed against you. This hearing is generally scheduled within 15 days of the detention hearing that resulted in the child's temporary placement with the Court.
During the Jurisdiction hearing, evidence supporting the allegations of child neglect or abuse are presented to the Court. The Juvenile Dependency Judge will consider all the information presented in the case including the finding of an official investigation and then make a determination on the authenticity of those accusations. If the Court finds that these allegations are, in fact, true, the Judge will issue an order upholding the Department of Social Services' petition and declare the child a dependent of the court.
Juvenile Dependency Disposition Hearing
Once the child has been declared a dependent of the Court, a disposition hearing will be scheduled before the Juvenile Dependency Judge. During this hearing, the Judge will review all evidence and consider related recommendations presented during the Juvenile Dependency process. The Judge will then decide whether it is in the best interest of the child to be returned to the family home or legally removed from the care and custody of the parent.
If it is determined that the child should remain a dependent of the court, the Judge will consider who should then be designated to care for the child. The Court will reflect on what is in the best interest of the child's safety and welfare and will first consider placing the child with a relative if possible. In the event there are no relatives who are willing or able to assume the responsibility of caring for the child, the Court will issue an order for placement in foster care with the Department of Social Services.
During this disposition hearing, the Judge can also address any other areas of concern that can affect the health and well-being of the child during this legal process. The Court can also issue various orders that are in the best interest of the minor. These orders can include continued parental participation in mental health or substance abuse treatment programs, issuance of restraining orders to protect the child's safety and well-being, and setting parental visitation mandates and restrictions during the Juvenile Dependency legal process.
The Court will most likely issue an order for a reunification plan to be put in place during this phase of the legal Dependency process, as well. This plan will be tailored specifically for parents to help further facilitate the child's return to the family home and provides a comprehensive program detailing the responsibilities and expectations of the parent.
Most reunification plans require parents to work closely with the Department of Social Services and other family law professionals to identify and correct the issues that resulted in the child's removal from the family home.
Juvenile Dependency Six Month Review Hearing
Juvenile Dependency cases that have resulted in the child's placement in foster care must be reviewed, at least, once every six months. During this six-month review hearing, the Judge will ask for information regarding the parents' progress with the reunification plan and make any necessary modifications to the order. The Court will also ask to be updated on the how well the child is doing while in foster care.
After thoroughly reviewing all updated and pertinent information regarding the case, the Juvenile Dependency Court may decide to return the child to the family home or continue foster care placement. If the order for foster care placement is upheld, a permanency hearing will be scheduled for no more than 12 months from the date the child entered foster care.
Juvenile Dependency Permanency Hearing
A Permanency hearing must be scheduled no more than 12 months following the child's foster care placement. During this phase of the Juvenile Dependency legal process, the Court will review the case and evaluate the progress the parent has made in regards to their reunification plan.
The Court will examine all current and updated information relevant to your Juvenile Dependency case and evaluate parental efforts to remedy the issues that initially brought the family to the attention of the Department of Social Services.
During this phase of the Juvenile Dependency legal process, the Court will evaluate the viability of the child returning to the family home. The Court will carefully weigh a variety of determinants related to your case as the Judge decides whether or not the child can be safely returned to the family home.
Some factors that can influence the Court's decision include the continued cooperation and compliance of the parent, the parent's ability to meet and abide by the requirements of the reunification plan, and the overall impact that returning to the family home may have on the child.
In some cases, the Juvenile Dependency Court may make the decision to terminate reunification services. It's important to remember that ending reunification efforts will not terminate your parental rights. Often times, the Court will allow parents to continue involvement in the child's life through visitation and other means. Additionally, if the court decides to end reunification efforts, a Selection and Implementation hearing must be set within 120 days of terminating reunification services.
Juvenile Dependency Selection and Implementation Hearing
In preparation for the Selection and Implementation hearing, the Department of Social Services case manager will prepare a report for the Court. This report will include information regarding the child, as well as, a preliminary evaluation which offers the Juvenile Dependency Court better insight as to the likelihood of adoption for the child. This report may also include case management recommendations and identification of any prospective adoptive parents.
If the child cannot be safely placed back into the family home, the Juvenile Dependency Court will issue an order for an alternative, permanent placement plan. The Court will look for the most permanent placement options in order to protect the best interests of the child—this means first considerations will include legal adoption and legal guardianship assignments.
During the Selection and Implementation hearing, the Court may elect to effectively terminate all parental rights. If there are no viable options for permanent child placement with a relative, alternative guardian, or other non-parent, an order may be issued for the child to be placed for adoption.
Contact Our Family Law Attorney
San Diego Family Law Attorney understand the impact that a report of child abuse can have on a family. Dealing with a Juvenile Dependency case can be a tense, highly-stressful and deeply-emotional experience for families. Unfortunately, the lasting effects of this complex legal process could potentially continue to affect you and your family for years to come.
Our highly-trained and experienced team of Family Law professionals are here to help you with all facets of the Juvenile Dependency process, including adoption services, foster care eligibility and placement, and emergency foster care services.
Our team at San Diego Family Law Attorney can help you through every step of your Juvenile Dependency care while ensuring your rights are protected. If you've been notified of a report that has been filed against you or you are facing a Juvenile Dependency hearing in San Diego, or the surrounding areas, we can help!
If you have questions about the Juvenile Dependency legal process or are currently facing a family law issue, be sure to contact us today at 619-610-7425!