A complete stranger knocks on your door and tells you that she is a social worker for the California Department of Social Services. The department has reason to believe you are neglecting or abusing your child, and she is there to investigate. What happens next?
If this happens to you, you should immediately seek the help of an attorney with experience handling child dependency cases. In the meantime, this article will help you understand the most immediate concern you may have: what happens to my child while I’m being investigated?
The Beginning of a Child Dependency Case
A child dependency case starts with a report made to Child Protective Services (CPS) in which you are accused of one or more of the following:
- Abusing or neglecting to take care of your child,
- Allowing someone else to abuse or neglect to take proper care of your child, or
- Placing your child is in danger of being abused or neglected.
Reports of child abuse can be made to CPS through the police or directly to CPS. If CPS gets a report of one or more of these acts, it will send a social worker to investigate. The social worker can take a number of actions, including the immediate removal of your child from your home if the social worker finds the child to be in immediate danger.
Where Does My Child Go?
If your child is removed from your custody, he or she will be placed in one of these three settings while the child dependency court conducts the case:
- With the child’s other parent (if you and the other parent are not together),
- With a relative, such as the child’s grandparents, aunt or uncle, or
- In a foster home or shelter
You likely do not want your child to be placed with a stranger. To prevent this from happening, you must cooperate with the social worker and provide information about your child’s relatives.
At this time, you can also ask the social worker to arrange for visitation rights. If it is appropriate in your case, you will be allowed to visit your child while the case is pending.
How Long Will My Child Be Removed from My Care?
If your child is removed from your custody, the social worker must file a removal petition with the court within 48 hours. A hearing (known as the detention hearing) must take place as soon as possible after the petition is filed. The detention hearing must take place either the same day or the next court day after the removal petition has been filed.
If the judge decides that your child is not in immediate danger, he or she can order that your child be returned to your care immediately. The case may proceed at this point, but you will be reunited with your child.
On the other hand, if the judge believes there is a danger to the safety and welfare of the child, he or she can order the child be placed in the custody of the other parent, a relative or a foster home. If the court removes your child from your custody, the judge can also set orders concerning how often and where you can visit your child.
The Jurisdiction Hearing
If, at the detention hearing, you denied the allegations in the petition, a jurisdiction hearing will be set.
At this hearing, the court will determine whether the allegations against you are true or if your case should be dismissed. Your attorney can argue that is in your child’s best interest to remain in your care and that the allegations are not true.
Contact the Experienced Child Dependency Attorneys at Wallin & Klarich
The most important decision you will make in any case involving the custody of your child is to select an attorney to represent you. At Wallin & Klarich, our attorneys have more than 35 years of experience successfully handling child dependency cases. We will fight diligently to protect your parental rights and help you obtain the best possible outcome in your case.
With offices in Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino, Los Angeles, San Diego, West Covina, Torrance and Victorville, there is a skilled Wallin & Klarich child dependency attorney available near you no matter where you work or live.
Call us today at (877) 466-5245 for a free telephone consultation. We will get through this together.