Dependency/CPS Cases

The Child Protective Service agency (CPS) is the major system of intervention of child abuse and neglect in California.   Currently, the law provides for services to abused and neglected children and their families. Whenever a report indicates the need for protection, CPS will take action, typically by taking custody of the children and filing a dependency case in the Superior Court, Juvenile division.  These are called Dependency cases, and are filed when children are victims of, or at risk of, abuse, neglect, exploitation, or parental absence.
The following are some of the typical CPS Dependency Case hearings you could expect to see:

The Detention Hearing is the first hearing before the Dependency Court.   This is when the court will
determine if there is enough of a threat to the safety of the child to justify detention by CPS.  The Court
will also decide where to temporarily place the child at this hearing.   The child may be released from
detention, may be placed with a suitable adult or extended family member, may be placed with you
under supervision, or may be placed in protective custody.   If the children are not returned to you, the court will set a visitation schedule to enable you and the children to visit with each other and maintain, as much as possible, the family bonds.

The Jurisdiction Hearing takes place within a couple of weeks after the Detention hearing.   The Court will make a determination about whether the child has been actually abused or neglected within the meaning of W & I §300.    This is a critical hearing since an adverse finding could result in permanent effects on the placement of the child, and upon your ability to keep your family together.  The Court need only find, by a preponderance of evidence, that your child qualifies as a dependent child.   

The Disposition Hearing is where a determination will be made about reunification, placement, and the types of programs that you may need to complete in order to get your family back together.   The Court will decide at this time what things you should do to make things better for your family and your child.  Those things can include things like attending a drug program, parenting classes, counseling, etc.  This is also known as a case plan.   The case plan is the services the court has ordered you to do.  If you don’t do them, the judge will more than likely think it’s not safe for your child to come home or to dismiss your case if your child is already at home. 

A Review Hearing is held every six months to review your case.  At each Review Hearing, CPS is required to submit a report showing your compliance or noncompliance with the case plan. It is critical that you have the representation of a qualified attorney at this hearing, otherwise CPS may request that the Court permanently place your child with someone else, including, but not limited to, adoptive parents, permanent foster care, or placement with a suitable relative.

The most important thing you can do when contacted by CPS is get a hold of an attorney IMMEDIATELY! Although the court will provide you an attorney, it may be difficult to contact them before the court date, and sometimes it’s even difficult to contact them during the pendency of your case due to the sheer volume of cases they handle.   A private attorney, retained by yourself, is available to you during the pendency of the case, and can often work individually with CPS to obtain return of the children quicker, or to assist in minimizing the sometimes burdensome requirements of CPS.

Contact the Law Office of Debra A. Smith today if CPS has visited your home.  We understand this system, and are here to help you through it and to obtain the return of your children quickly and effectively.