Children have several rights, which are sometimes infringed upon when families are breaking up. A child has a right to be protected, cared for, and raised well. However, children's law is there to make sure that their rights are safe in cases where children have been hurt or neglected. In the state of California, juvenile dependency is designed to handle situations about child abuse and neglect.
Until a child becomes an adult, they are usually entrusted to an adult for their needs and protection. When the law feels that the parent is not doing enough to care for the child, the child will depend on a juvenile dependency court for safeguarding. If you are in San Diego, CA, and would like to know more about juvenile dependency, contact us at San Diego Divorce Attorney. We will help you understand your rights and options and walk with you through the process to ensure that your child's best interests are put into consideration in every decision made by the court.
Overview of Juvenile Dependency
By nature, children are not able to protect and provide for themselves. This responsibility first rests with the parents. The law mandates parents to ensure that the basic needs of their children are well-taken care. Children have a right to a decent meal, a safe place to live in, education, and modest clothing, among other things. If these rights are ignored, and the law finds out that a child/children are not well taken care of, parents could lose their rights over the child/children. There are parents out there who are unable to make their homes conducive for children. In that case, the court will find a home for the child to live until they attain a legal age safely.
In California, juvenile dependency helps ensure that children are well-protected and their needs provided at least until they can provide for themselves. When a child's wellbeing is in danger, maybe because the parents have hurt or neglected them, such a case will be determined in a juvenile dependency court. Since the child is still a minor and unable to care for themselves, the judge will seek an alternative shelter and caregiver for that child until they grow up. Juvenile dependency courts ensure that the child is safeguarded if and when the child can no longer depend on its parents for protection and provision.
Juvenile dependency courts intervene every time there is a safety concern over a child. It could either be the child is in danger of being abused, neglected, or abandoned. In California, members of the public have been put on high alert to watch out and report any suspicion regarding child negligence and abuse. Once the report is received, the court will conduct background investigations to determine whether or not the allegations are true. If indeed the child/children in question require protection, the court will ensure that. Such a child will be placed under foster care.
Juvenile dependency courts also help with other family issues that parents could be facing, which affect the children. There are times when parents provide reports about their inability to protect or care for their children in these courts. The court will not only seek to help the child but also the parent/parents. Note that California courts are not just about handling criminal cases and punishing the parents. Several families have received help to overcome their problems and other issues that were previously making it hard for them to protect and care for their children.
Note that not all children who undergo juvenile dependency end up in foster care. The court will always consider the best interest of the child/children when ruling in such cases. In some cases, a child is still better off living with his/her parents. Instead of sending such a child to live with their relatives or foster parents, the court can help ensure that the parent’s home is safe and healthy for the child. In this case, the court will engage the services of a social worker, who will work and walk with the parents to ensure that their home standards are improved and conducive for the child. If this is done successfully, the child will be allowed to go back to live with his/her parents.
Juvenile Dependency Cases
As mentioned above, juvenile dependency cases include all those cases that pertain to child welfare. For that reason, the facts will take four main directions. These are:
Whether or Not the Child Will Be Safe If Left in the Hands of its Parents
Several factors will be considered here, depending on the nature of the case. If the court finds the parent's home okay for the child, the child will be returned to live with its parents. However, just as earlier mentioned, a social worker has to be sent over to assess the home and provide specific services that will make the home safe for the child.
Whether or Not there is Enough Evidence of Negligence against the Parent
In such a case, the parent will opt to have a trial in their case. There will be two parties presenting their case before a judge. The two parties could be one parent against the other, one parent against their family members, or the court against the parents. The judge will have to listen to the explanations of both parties before a final decision is made.
If the jury feels that one party has not presented enough evidence against the child’s primary caregiver, the parent may be able to get their child back.
However, always remember that the judge will always consider the child’s best interests. Therefore, if there is a slight chance that the child will not be safe under the parent’s protection, he/she may lose their rights over the child.
Whether or Not the Parent Needs Help
Some parents endanger the lives of their children unintentionally. There is a chance that such parents could be helped and reunited back with their children. In that case, the court will seek to find if there is a way such a parent could be improved to create a safe environment for their child. Together with the social worker, the parent will come up with a case plan with which they will work to ensure that the child returns to a stable and safe home.
Parents who are afraid of losing their children will always want to follow through with the case plan. There is, however, no guarantee that the program will work. However, if successful, the parent can retain their rights over the child.
Termination of Parental Rights
It is usually the last course, and will only be taken if all the other routes are not working. The court will not be quick to terminate a parent's rights, but if all efforts to keep the child with its parents fail, the court will not have any other option but to place the child under safe custody. Note that not all parents agree to go with the case plan mentioned above. Others start the case plan but are not patient enough to complete it. The court will give the parent sufficient time to make up their mind. If it is not working, it will be for the child's best interest to place it in a safe home. The rights of their parents will be terminated, and the child could be up for adoption.
The juvenile dependency court does not have to take your child away immediately; there is concern about his/her safety. The child can go on living with you, but the court will ensure that you are getting supervision and services. It is so until the jury is sure that the parents have made sufficient progress and are able to provide a safe environment for the child independently.
If not, the child will be removed from their home until the parent has resolved all the problems and has also completed your case plan. Then you can request the court to bring back the child home. When this happens, the court will ensure that you get continuous supervision by a social worker for six months, starting from the time the child is brought back to your home.
However, if the parent makes no progress after 12 months of trying, you may lose your rights over your child eventually. The court will only terminate one’s parental rights if it is sure that the parent is not willing to reunite with their child.
Rights of Parents during a Juvenile Dependency Case
Parental rights have to be protected by all means when it comes to the general well being of a child. These rights can only be terminated if it is established that the parent is undermining the safety of his/her child. Parental rights apply in all family courts, and juvenile dependency courts are no exception. Some of the rights you should know about as a parent that is about to lose his/her parental rights include:
Right to Legal Representation
The law is complex and might be confusing for someone who has not studied it keenly. Interpretation of specific legal clauses requires excellent skills and experience that only a competent attorney will have. For that reason, a parent is entitled to legal representation every step of their case. Your attorney will explain to you what various legal issues in your case mean, explain your options, advise you on the best decision to make, and then walk with you through the process to the end. He/she will also ensure that your rights are protected. If reuniting with your kid is your greatest desire, your attorney will ensure that your wishes are granted in the end.
Again, you need someone familiar with court cases to represent you before the jury and defend you against any allegations that may be brought forth against you. For that reason, finding an experienced attorney will be a good step in getting what you need out of the case. A parent can hire an attorney if they can afford one. If not, you can have a court-appointed attorney to represent you.
Right to Get Informed of All Court Dates
The parent needs to attend all court hearings regarding their case. For that reason, he/she should be notified when all those hearings will be held and given enough time to prepare for the same. The most crucial thing in such trials is understanding your legal position and your chances of getting back your child. You also need to stay informed of all legal issues regarding your case.
Once the date of hearings is communicated to you, ensure that you write them all down, so a snot to forget. It is also essential to ensure that you are there on time, however hard that is. You could arrive earlier before time to familiarize yourself with the surrounding before the hearing starts.
If something comes up that may prevent you from attending the hearing; maybe you may not be able to transport yourself to the court; you must let your attorney and caseworker know about it beforehand. When it is communicated on time, they will find a way to help you so as not to miss an important court date.
If you change your home address or phone number, update everyone involved in your case. It will ensure that communication is ongoing even after such changes are made.
Right to Access To All Reports Related To Your Case
Parents have rights to know the progress of their case. Reports regarding their situation can be accessed through their attorneys. Your attorney is not allowed by law to hide any information regarding your matter. Any information presented in a hearing or report filed in your case should be known to you as soon as the filing is done.
Right to Have Their Child Back
Juvenile dependency courts should always do their best to ensure that a child is reunited back with its parents. For that reason, parents have a right to any help they can get to have their child back. Losing one's parental rights is not an easy matter. Again, it is for the child's best interest to grow up under the care of its parents. That is why the court will deploy essential services such as those of a social worker to ensure that the parent is helped to get their child back. The parent is also allowed time to go through their case plan so they can create a safe environment for their child at home.
Right to Information about the Progress of their Child
Parents whose child/children are placed outside their home have a right to information regarding the progress of their children. For instance, if the child is taken ill, the parent needs to be consulted before they are given any medical attention. The parents need to be informed if there are plans for the child to travel from wherever they have been placed. The parents should even know the costs for all the services offered.
It is essential to keep the parent in close contact with the child, even if the child is not living with the parent during the progress of the case. The parent may be allowed to visit the child as often as it is necessary. The responsibility of providing financial support to the child should not be taken from the parent too. Support for the child may be required even if the child is being cared for outside its home.
Consequences of Missing Court Hearings
The court will do its best to ensure that the parent is aware of all hearing dates. As mentioned above, the parent should attend all these hearings to know the progress of their case. If a parent misses the court date, the trials will go on as scheduled and important decisions might be made in their absence. It means that you might miss a chance to air your view regarding certain decisions affecting your case. For a parent who still wants to reunite with their child, you would want to be there when decisions regarding your child are being made.
However, it is understandable that something might come up that would make it hard for you to attend the hearing. You might fall sick before the hearing date or even lack a means of transportation to the courtroom. If that happens, you must communicate with your attorney, attorney, and caseworker about the way forward.
Find a San Diego Divorce Attorney Near Me
Juvenile Dependency Courts will always do their best to ensure that children's best interests are served. Therefore, if you are about to lose your parental rights, you need the best legal help you can get to protect your rights and interests. At San Diego Divorce Attorney, we have competent children's law attorneys that will be more than willing to help with your case. Therefore, if you are in San Diego, CA, and are about to lose your parental rights, call us at 858-529-5150. We might be able to help you reunite with your child in a safe home.