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What Is Juvenile Dependency in California?

The core objective of juvenile dependency is to safeguard the well-being of children who have been or those who face the risk of being neglected or abused by their caregiver or parents. When you have grounds to think you may lose your rights of being a parent to your child or children, you have to act quickly and seek the services of a juvenile dependency lawyer. The lawyer can help defend you and your family from the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) actions. If you are battling a juvenile dependency case with the DCFS in Los Angeles, we at the Los Angeles Divorce Lawyer can help you with your issue.

What Is Juvenile Dependency?

A juvenile dependency case occurs when a minor is brought to court since a parent has neglected or abused them. A child is reliant on adults like parents or other caregivers and requires their care and support until he or she reaches adulthood.

If the parents are unable or unwilling to adequately take care of their children, the juvenile court will intervene, and the minor is said to be "dependent" on the court for protection. When this occurs, the child could be forced to reside with other members of the family or a different family for some time.

This type of temporary home is known as foster care. Parents will then cooperate with the court to create a safe and healthy household for their children. If they are successful, the child will be able to return to live with his or her parents. This is referred to as reunification. Other times parents may be unable to provide a safe environment for their children. The court will then need to find a new home for that child where he/she may live comfortably for a longer time.

Juvenile Dependency Law in California

Cases concerning minors who've been purportedly assaulted, neglected, or insufficiently cared for are heard in juvenile dependency court. The Welfare and Institutions Section 300 contain the laws that govern dependency courts.

The law permits a juvenile court to assume custody over a minor if the court determines that the minor has experienced, or is in danger of suffering, serious bodily harm or sickness due to:

  • Inadequacy or incapacity of his/her parent to appropriately care for and protect the minor
  • The deliberate failure of the minor's parent to effectively supervise or safeguard the minor from the actions of the caretaker with whom the minor has been entrusted
  • The parent's deliberate or reckless failure to give sufficient food, clothes, shelter, or healthcare assistance to the minor; or
  • Owing to the parent's mental condition, mental impairment, or drug dependency, a parent's incapacity to offer routine care
  • Minors experiencing extreme emotional trauma, such as severe anxiety, violent acts against themselves or others, depression, due to their parent's actions
  • Minors who have been sexually abused by their parents or whose parents have failed to protect them from sexual assault
  • Minors left with no support due to their parents' imprisonment or institutionalization, or because their parents are unable to give them the appropriate care

California has several entities tasked with ensuring the safety of children living in the state. An allegation of child abuse or neglect is investigated by the agencies. When the agency determines that there's a genuine worry for the wellbeing of a child in a home, it will strive to contact the parent and will most likely present them with the opportunity to volunteer or a petition will be filed against them. If the petition is filed, the juvenile court then gets involved in the matter.

After the petition has been filed, the court may pursue legal action against the parent(s) or the child's guardian. Once charges are brought, the minor will almost certainly be taken from that home. He or she is removed from the home to ensure that the child's safety is maintained as the investigations and case progress. Depending on the conditions of the case, the court's ultimate aim could be to offer a permanent home for the child.

How a Case Gets to Court

The juvenile dependency process starts when somebody reports alleged child mistreatment or negligence, or if a juvenile is left without care due to their parent's incarceration or institutionalization, or if a caregiver fails to offer adequate care.

The Child Protective Services conducts an investigation, and if it is determined that the child's safety warrants court intervention, a request to make the minor a court dependant is submitted. If family reunification is impossible, the Juvenile Court will establish an acceptable long arrangement for the child's care, like adoption.

The Start of a Juvenile Dependency Process

The juvenile dependency procedure starts when the DCFS is notified of the minor's suspected mistreatment and an investigation is launched. It means that an emergency responder will investigate the issue and determine if or not the youngster is in a secure and healthy setting.

If the emergency responder determines that the minor is in danger in the household, the child may be taken from your care and placed under the custody of the court. Having your children or child taken from your house can be among the most agonizing and stressful situations any parent can go through.

Section 300 Petition

This happens in under 48 hours of the minor being brought into the court's custody. As mentioned before, the DCFS conducts an investigation, and when it is determined that the minor's safety necessitates court intervention, a Section 300 request to make the minor a dependant of the Court is submitted.

Detention Hearing

If your child is removed from your home, a court proceeding has to be planned as quickly as possible. Officials will notify you of the time and date of the preliminary hearing, which you'll have to attend. At the detention hearing, the judge will determine if your child will come back home or become court dependent.

You will have the chance to acknowledge or refute the charges of neglect and abuse during the detention hearing. The court will look through the specifics of the claim and determine the best living condition for the child.

If the court determines that returning the minor under your custody is not in his or her best interests, the court may put the child into foster care or authorize that the child be cared for by a close family member. You must inform your lawyer about any family members who may be capable of caring for the child, as the judge will give priority to any family members who can care for the child.

Jurisdiction Hearing

When your child is removed from your custody following the detention hearing, you'll be allowed to reply to the charges of abuse leveled against you during a jurisdiction hearing.

The court will assess if the charges against you are credible.

You must engage an expert child dependency lawyer who will help you persuade the judge that keeping the minor's best interests are met when the child remains under your custody. If the court discovers that the charges against you are genuine, the child will most probably be removed from your care, and the matter will be heard at a disposition hearing.

The Disposition Hearing and Reunification Plan

A juvenile dependency disposition proceeding will be placed 10 days following the jurisdiction hearing when your child has been taken from your custody. The judge will usually implement a reunification plan, also called a case plan, during the disposition hearing.

If you meet certain specifications, the reunification plan shall lay out a timeline for when you shall be reunited with your child. Following the court's acceptance of the reunification plan, it will hold a 6-month review hearing to assess your progression toward the case plan. The juvenile dependency procedure is complicated and time-consuming, and it might cause you and your child to be separated for a long time.

The judge will assess your progression on the reunion plan within the 6-month review hearing. When the court determines that you fulfilled the reunion plan and addressed the issues that led to the child's removal from your care, your child could be returned to you.

When the court determines that adequate effort has still not been accomplished, a twelve-month review hearing should be scheduled, during which the judge will assess your performance per the reunion plan once more.

When the court still finds that returning your kid to your care isn't in your child's best interests after the twelve-month hearing, the judge will schedule a permanency hearing to choose a permanent placement for your child.

Permanency Hearing

A permanency hearing should be convened within 12 months of the minor being placed in the foster care system. The judge will determine whether the minor can be successfully reunited with his or her biological parents or whether efforts to reunite her with her biological family have to be terminated. In certain cases, the judge may decide to pursue family reunification.

It's crucial to keep in mind that ending reunification services doesn't mean you've lost your parental rights. Even when the court cancels reunification services, the child's parents are frequently entitled to retain visits as well as other forms of interaction with their child.

When the child is unable to come back home, the permanency hearing will be held to determine a new permanent plan. Legal guardianship, adoption, or other scheduled, permanent living arrangements could be part of that plan.

The ideal alternative is to provide the child with the best permanent residence possible, thus the judge considers adoption first, followed by legal guardianship. If none of these options is feasible or in the best interests of the child, the court will mandate a new, permanent living plan.                

Selection and Implementation Hearing

A Selection and Implementation Proceeding has to be scheduled within 120 days following the reunification services termination for the parents of the child. Since the statute regulating it is found in Welfare and Institutions section 366.26, it's often referred to as the .26 hearing.

During this hearing, the caseworker from the county compiles a statement that contains details about the minor and an initial evaluation of whether the minor is going to be given up for adoption, as well as the names of any potential adoptive parents.

The judge can irrevocably terminate all parental rights or mandate that the minor be put for adoption during the selection and implementation session. If no suitable adoptive parent has been found, the court might declare adoption as your child's permanent plan then direct the social worker to locate a suitable adoptive home.

Mandated Reporters

As previously indicated, the juvenile dependency process starts when the DCFS receives the notification of alleged child mistreatment or negligence. The DCFS is frequently contacted by what's known as a mandated reporter.

Anyone who is obligated by the law to inform the DCFS of any occurrence of child abuse is known as a mandated reporter. A compilation of mandated reporters in California can be found in California PEN 11165.7. Physicians, teachers, as well as all staff of children's daycare institutions, church members, as well as law enforcement officers are among those who are required by law to report.

Juvenile Dependency Frequently Asked Questions

Below are some commonly asked questions on juvenile dependency.

What Would Cause the Department of Children and Family Services to Investigate Me?

If you have been accused of child neglect or abuse, the DCFS may investigate you. A "mandated reporter" normally starts the process by complaining about your abuse or your alleged abuse.

Why was My Child Taken Away From Me?

After the DCFS receives the notification of a minor's purported abuse by the parent and begins investigating, an emergency responder will investigate the issue and determine if the minor is in a healthy secure setting. When the emergency responder determines that your child is in danger, the child may be taken from your care.

Can I Permanently Lose My Child?

Your rights as a parent can be terminated by the court. If the judge finds that the minor's safety is not assured while he or she is under your care after the juvenile dependency process, your parental rights will be terminated and the court will find a more suitable residence for the child. It can involve putting up your child for adoption or he or she can be placed with a legal guardian.

What is a Guardian ad Litem?

This is a lawyer appointed to represent your child. A Guardian ad Litem's sole purpose is to guarantee that the best interests of the child are served and that he or she is put in the most suitable setting possible.

Can My Child Live with a Relative?

You must give the essential information to a social worker or your lawyer about other family members who can look after your child. They will make contact with the relatives to confirm that the conditions are safe and appropriate for the minor. The judge is not obligated to leave the minor with other relatives, but they would choose to do so and can give priority to any petitions made by your family members to take care of the child.

In addition to other factors that the court will take into consideration, any person who lives in the relative's household must undergo a background check. If an occupant in that household has a history of previous criminal charges for felonies or misdemeanors, the court will not place the child in that home.

Why Do I Need a Juvenile Dependency Lawyer?

In cases involving children who have been mistreated, neglected, or assaulted, dependency lawyers can help. Child Protective Services (CPS) may assert that a minor is being neglected or mistreated by his or her parents, necessitating the placement of the minor in foster care.

CPS removes children from the parent's care and places them in foster care if the required procedures are followed and a court grants permission. However, not every CPS worker is impartial, and courts do not always have a complete understanding of someone's situation. That's where a juvenile dependency attorney can help.

A juvenile dependency attorney focuses on custody of children and dependency laws. These lawyers can assist parents in regaining custody of a child. As previously indicated, the judicial process can be flawed when it comes to investigating a family's past.

When assigning custody, judges will not consider the positive aspects of the situation; instead, they will focus on the negative elements of the situation. Dependency attorneys are educated to analyze the history of the family to uncover the truth and oppose the judgment. When parents want to reclaim custody or if the minor has been declared a court dependant, dependency lawyers can help.

In matters of juvenile dependency, the parent, as well as their child, is entitled to legal representation. A lawyer can go along with them to their court appearances and assist them in presenting evidence to support their claim. Juvenile dependency issues are tough to deal with and could also be quite distressing. Let an expert juvenile dependency attorney assist you if you have any issues or queries about your case.

Find a Los Angeles Juvenile Dependency Lawyer Near Me

At the Los Angeles Divorce Lawyer, we are committed to advocating for the interests of our clients who are involved in juvenile dependency proceedings in Los Angeles. We have a lot of experience in family law and we will fight tirelessly to protect the rights of our clients in court. If you are involved in a juvenile dependency case, our experienced attorneys are available to discuss your case. Call us today at 310-695-5212.



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