Juvenile Court Process

The following information describes the progress of a case through the juvenile court system from the conclusion of the referral process until a decision is made to return the child to his own home or to make another permanent placement and custody determination. This is a time when your role as a resource parent is very important in the life of the child involved.

Emergency Custody Hearing

When a child is taken into protective or emergency custody, a petition must be filed in the juvenile court within seven judicial days that requests that the child be adjudicated to be a deprived child and that custody of the child be placed with a parent, relative or other suitable person or with DHS for placement in foster care.

The emergency custody hearing is the first hearing that occurs in a juvenile proceeding and it must be held within two judicial days after the child is removed from home. At this hearing the court determines whether there is sufficient cause for the child to remain in custody. If the child remains in custody, the investigation continues gathering more information for the petition. At the emergency custody hearing, the placement of the child is also reviewed and information considered about a protecting parent or any other potential kinship placement for the child instead of the child remaining in shelter care or emergency foster care.

Adjudicatory Hearing

If the court determines, at the emergency custody hearing, that the child should remain in custody, and the district attorney files a petition, an adjudicatory hearing is scheduled. At the adjudicatory hearing evidence is presented and the judge determines whether the allegations in the petition have been proven and whether adjudicating the child to be deprived is in his or her best interests.

Dispositional Hearing

After the adjudicatory hearing, if the child was adjudicated deprived, a dispositional hearing is held. At this hearing the court considers an individualized service plan, and, if it approves the plan, orders the parents to follow the plan to help correct the conditions that led to the child’s adjudication. The family will have had the opportunity to work with their child welfare specialist on developing this individualized service plan. A copy of the individualized service plan approved by the court is made available to the resource parents caring for the child. The resource parents will be involved in those aspects of the plan that pertain to services for the child and likely in the implementation of the family’s visitation plan. The court also determines who will have custody of the child at this disposition hearing. Adjudicatory and dispositional hearings are sometimes held on the same day or may be several weeks apart.

Review Hearing

The court must hold review hearings at least every six months after the dispositional hearing. The DHS child welfare specialist gathers information to report to the court about the child’s situation and the progress made by the family on the court ordered individualized service plan. Children may be required to attend the court hearings.

Permanency Hearing

The court is also required to hold permanency hearings every six months following the adjudication hearing or date when the child enters out-of-home care, whichever is earlier. The court must consider the permanent placement options for the child, then decide which would be best for the depending on the child’s needs and long term best interests. The possible options are for the child to return to his or her own home with one or both parents, or be placed for adoption, in guardianship or some other long term plan.

Permanency hearings may be held at the same time as review hearings or scheduled separately. The court considers, at minimum, the health and safety of the child and what is in the best interests of the child at these hearings.

Resource Parent Participation

Resource parents have the right to participate in the court proceedings that concern the foster children placed in their home and to offer information and comments directly to the court. Resource parents are to be given adequate prior written notice of review and permanency hearings, by DHS Child Welfare.

Permanency Planning Report

Prior to a permanency hearing, the DHS child welfare specialist prepares a report regarding the child for the court’s review. Resource parents for the child are asked for information in the preparation of this report and may also submit additional comments for the court’s consideration. Open communication and courtesy between the members of the team working for the best interests of a child lead to the best planning and services for the child and the child’s family.

Notice of Removal

If a child has resided in the resource home for three months or more, DHS will (except in an emergency), give the foster parent written notice of a minimum of five judicial days in advance of intent to remove the foster child from the resource home. DHS must also provide a copy of this notice to the court and other court participants of intent to remove a child from the resource home. The notice tells the specific reasons for the child being removed. In most circumstances the decision for the child’s moving out of the resource home and the reasons for it will have already been discussed and planned for in advance. If an emergency exists, the advance notice is not required. An example of an emergency might be when a request is made by the resource parent to remove a child immediately or when there is a medical emergency. Other emergency circumstances could include, but are not limited to, a pending investigation of abuse or neglect of a child in the resource home, or the resource home not meeting foster care standards, or a court order has been issued for the child to be placed with a parent or sibling.

If a child has resided in the same resource home for six months or more, and the move being planned is not agreed upon, the resource parent may file an objection with the court of jurisdiction within five judicial days after receiving the notice of removal. If the objection is filed and served timely, unless an emergency exists, the child’s removal does not occur until the court holds a hearing regarding the proposed removal. The court has 15 working days in which to hold the hearing to consider the resource parent’s objection to the child’s proposed removal from the resource home.

Continue to Termination of Parental Rights