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Juvenile Dependency FAQ

Answers To Your Juvenile Dependency Questions

  • What happens at the initial/detention hearing? The initial or detention hearing will be the first court appearance in the judicial process. If your child was removed from your home, you will face a detention hearing. If your child is still in your custody, you will attend an initial hearing. In both proceedings you will be informed of the allegations against you and a date for your jurisdictional hearing will be set. In addition, a judge will determine custody arrangements for your child pending the jurisdictional hearing. It is important to note that determining the validity of the allegations does not happen at the initial/detention hearing.
  • What is a case plan? The case plan, sometimes called a reunification plan, is presented at the disposition hearing. It details the action and steps a parent must complete in order to get his or her children back. This plan is set to a specific timeline and is custom tailored to each unique circumstance. For example, a parent may have to agree to alcohol treatment, an anger management course, parenting classes or weekly counseling sessions.
  • Is everybody entitled to reunification services? No, reunification plans are not an entitlement. In extreme circumstances, CPS can bypass your parental rights and deny you reunification services. There is a strict legal code which governs the offering of reunification services to parents. For example, if you have caused the death of another child, have been confirmed mentally unfit to raise a child, have a drug problem and are resistant to treatment, or if you have been convicted of certain felonies, you may not be eligible for a reunification plan.
  • What is the difference between family maintenance and family reunification? Family maintenance is when the child is allowed to remain with his or her parent, under supervision from a social worker and the court. In most maintenance cases, the parent must also agree to a plan set forth by CPS. In family reunification, the child has been taken from the home but a plan is established to help resolve issues where a parent is unfit to care for his or her child. If the parent accepts the reunification services and adheres to the plan, there is a strong chance for the family to reunite down the road.
  • What is permanency planning? A permanency plan is a proposal for the permanent placement of a child in the event that reunification attempts with the parent fails. Plan options may include adoption, guardianship or long-term foster care. In juvenile dependency, the law requires that both a reunification plan and an alternate permanency plan be established concurrently. Development of a permanency plan does not necessarily mean a permanent loss of parental rights.
  • Can I lose my parental rights? Yes, in the most extreme cases you can lose your parental rights. However, the system was designed to keep families together when doing so is safe and beneficial for the children. Knowing this, if you commit to the case plan and follow the outlined steps, you have a very good chance of keeping your children.

Petaluma, California, Permanency Planning Attorney

It is important to note that each family will face a different set of circumstances and the above answers are intended as only a guideline, not as legal advice. To understand how the law will affect you and your child, contact our Santa Rosa juvenile dependency lawyer at 707-623-1875 to discuss your specific matter.

Helping Families Stay Together