The juvenile dependency area is the system in which the court
takes jurisdiction over your child for reasons of neglect or
physical harm, among other things. This
is a very serious matter, because there is a possiblity of
losing your child if you do not have an attorney to fight for
your family and your rights.
The Juvenile Dependency System is encompassed
in the juvenile law and has two goals:
to protect the children
in your family and preserve and strengthen the family at the
same time. Often, the only way you will know if you are the
focus of a CPS/CFS (Child Protective Services/Children and
Family Services) investigation is by an unannounced visit or
a phone call from a social worker. You must take whatever measures
appropriate to contact an attorney IMMEDIATELY. The very first
steps that you take in dealing with social services is CRITICAL.
If the social worker (CPS/DFS), after his or her initial investigation, decides
to file a petition in the name of your children for reasons of parental neglect,
etc. . . you will be notified of the court date. Often you will just be notified
of a court date and nothing else! You have the right to have a copy of the petition
that they file with the court before
the hearing.) Time and time again, parents appear in court
with no knowledge of the allegations or their specifics. You should have all
of that information before you appear in court. It is imperative that you have
If your children are taken into protective custody by CPS/CFS, the parent must
be informed by the most efficient means available:
- that the child is in custody;
- the nature of the process, and;
- how a parent can regain custody.
Usually, a parent knows only one thing: their child has been taken
and other information is being kept from them. Often, the social
worker is "unavailable" or vague. Other times, the
social worker will ask you to come in for an interview. THIS
IS A CRITICAL STAGE. You have the right to be represented at
every stage. It is critical to meet with the social worker
WITH AN ATTORNEY. It is very risky to your position as a parent
to meet with the social worker alone, without representation.
BY LAW, A SOCIAL WORKER FROM CPS/CFS MUST EITHER RELEASE
YOUR CHILD OR FILE A PETITION WITHIN 48 HOURS
You could risk losing custody of your children at the detention
hearing or even before the court hearing. YOU MUST CONTACT AN ATTORNEY
WHO WORKS IN THE AREA OF JUVENILE LAW/JUVENILE DEPENDENCY IMMEDIATELY.
It is unwise to appear before a judge without an adequate legal
representation. Juvenile Dependency is a unique area of the law
and you will need an attorney who works SPECIFICALLY in the area
of juvenile law/juvenile dependency that is experienced in order
to best advocate for you.