Juvenile Dependency

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Juvenile Dependency (Abuse and Neglect):

Cases where there may be abuse or neglect in the home. The juvenile court’s job is to protect the children in the family.

The juvenile court can make orders in dependency cases. For example, these orders can:

  • Take children from their homes;
  • Send children to live with relatives or in foster care or group homes;
  • Cancel a parent’s rights;
  • Create new parental rights; or
  • Work with other agencies to get the services the child needs.

If the court takes a child from his or her home, a government agency is responsible for the child and the child's health, education, and care. The court can also order the agency to assist the parents in making their home safe for the child.

If your child is taken out of your home because of abuse or neglect, you have the right to have a lawyer represent you in court. If you do not have enough money to hire a lawyer, you can ask the court to assign a lawyer to your case. (You may have to pay part or all of the costs for your lawyer if you earn enough money.)

What happens in juvenile dependency court:

If you and your child are involved in a juvenile dependency case, you must follow certain steps until your case is resolved. The court will explain what you must do and the deadlines you must meet. The court will try to resolve your case as quickly as possible. If your child becomes a “dependent of the court,” the court will make orders for you, your child, and the social worker. The court makes these orders to protect your child.

The court can order that:

    • Your child live in your home under court supervision; or

    • Your child live in a different home also under court supervision.

If your child becomes a “dependent of the court” and the court does not order reunification services to help you get back together with your child, or reunification efforts fail, you can lose your child.

REMEMBER: Throughout the court process, 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. Also, you must tell the court and the social worker where to mail you documents about your child. If you change your mailing address, you must tell your social worker immediately.

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