Juvenile dependency is a very specialized legal area and children’s court issues are only handled well by an attorney that has extensive knowledge of these matters, and also understands the precise requirements of the individuals who are involved. At the Law Office of David A. Martin & Associates in Sacramento, our attorneys have dealt with hundreds of juvenile dependency cases with successful outcomes.
Department of Children and Family Services
In many circumstances if child abuse or neglect is seen or brought to attention, a social worker employed by the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) might pay a visit to the home and take the child away just as a precaution. We often represent parents in the dependency court who are attempting to get their children out of protective custody.
An emergency assessment can be made by a social worker if a child is being kept by a relative. The social worker can decide if the relative’s home is the right place for the child. This assessment may include:
- A home visit which will evaluate whether the home is a safe place and if the relative has the ability to look after the child
- A check for any criminal record
- A probe into any possible allegations of previous child neglect or abuse by the relative in question or any other adult residing in the relative’s house
What is Juvenile Dependency?
A child becomes a “dependent” of the state through the court, which acts as the child’s parents and takes on that role. When a child or children have been taken away from the parent(s) or a legal guardian by the child protective services agency, a dependency petition must be filed by making use of the juvenile court within 3 days of any detention. Any parents or guardians must be brought before the court to answer to the allegations laid in the petition.
During what is called the “arraignment hearing”, a session will be conducted by the court to identify whether there is any evidence that exists that will support the continued holding of the child. If there is no such evidence, the child will be released immediately and returned to the guardian or parent.
If the court has upheld the dependency petition a “disposition hearing” takes place, where the court will make recommendations for the future of the child. This might mean the termination of parental rights, which is often referred to as TPR by dependency law attorneys. This is when the juvenile court has decided that a child cannot go back to his or her parents or guardians and is now adoptable. It is a legal requirement that the court terminates parental rights so that adoption of a child can take place without delay.