If you and your child are involved in a juvenile dependency case, you must follow certain steps until your case is resolved. There are also very important deadlines you must meet (the first court hearing regarding the placement of your child can often happen within 72 hours).
The specific reasons you are in Juvenile Court will be in the Petition and any other court papers you receive. The county will likely have an attorney and social worker on your case. Sometimes, the court also appoints a volunteer “Court Appointed Special Advocate” to your case. The social worker can explain how the process works, but the social worker cannot give you legal advice. If you have questions, ask your lawyer or the judge.
You are allowed to be represented by a private attorney and can postpone your first court hearing for a short time in order to can get a lawyer. Please be aware that the attorney you choose must have specialized training in Juvenile Law and must have a “Certificate of Competency to Practice in Juvenile Dependency Court” on file with the Juvenile Court.
If your child becomes a “dependent of the court,” the court will make orders for you, your child, and the social worker. The court can order that your child live in your home or in a different home under court supervision.
If your child was taken away from you, you should immediately tell the social worker or your lawyer about any relatives your child can stay with until the next court hearing. If the judge does not allow your child to be returned to you, your child may be able to stay with relatives until your case is resolved.
You have the right to a court hearing. At the court hearing, a judge will decide if the statements in the petition are true. The social worker will make a report and give the report to the court. The report will be based on the social worker’s review of your case and conversations with you and other people. The report will recommend where your child should live until the next court hearing.
You must follow any case plan and meet your deadlines if you want to have your child returned to you. The court will likely review your case several times. If the court orders a hearing for a “permanent plan,” the court can consider adoption or a guardian for your child. Often there will be a court hearing before any “permanent plan.” At that hearing, the court considers multiple options:
Ending your parental rights and order the child placed for adoption (this means that legally you are no longer the child’s parent);
Appointing a legal guardian for your child; or
Placing your child in long-term foster care.
If you want the court to let your child return to your care then you must meet any deadlines and follow all court orders in your case.