3 Things You Must Do At the Start of Your Juvenile Dependency Case

  1. Get Friendly Relatives Evaluated To Care for Your Children
  2. Get Friendly Relatives Evaluated To Care for Your Children
  3. Get Friendly Relatives Evaluated To Care for Your Children

Yes, I said it three times in the hope that you will take my legal advice, implement my legal advice, and not ignore it.

I keep seeing and hearing about this scenario all too often: Child is about to be adopted by foster parents, and there are relatives who want the child placed with them.  Then the epic battle begins, foster parents vs. relatives.  This battle can be avoided, and should be avoided by the parents or relatives taking active roles in contacting the social worker, preferably in writing/email, and letting the worker know that relatives want custody or placement.

Do not wait thinking the children will end up with relatives if the parents don’t get the children returned to the parents.  Relative placement is NOT a guarantee, especially late in the juvenile case.

All too often the parents do not tell relatives about the juvenile case and foster placement because of embarrassment.  On a recent case, I father hired me to represent him in a case, and to specifically get the child placed with his mother, the paternal grandmother.  The case was about 7 months old, the 11 month old child was placed with a foster mother who now wants to adopt the child and the social worker was refusing and dragging her feet with respect to placing the child with the grandmother.  It seems the social worker believes the foster parent would provide a better home as compared to the paternal grandmother.

Incidentally, the grandmother had just learned about the child being placed in a foster home when her son told her this during our first office meeting.  She had no idea her grandchild was in a foster home.

In my opinion, the social workers have a legal obligation to search out and place children with relatives before foster placement.  However, I want you to understand, if they do not do this search it does NOT guarantee that the child will later be moved from the foster home and placed with relatives.  Yes, I said it is NOT a guarantee.

So get the children placed with relative’s right up front, even if your lawyer has to fight for it; as s/he is fighting for you to get the children back.

I am currently representing relatives who are trying to get custody of a child who is about to be adopted by a foster parent.  What makes the case so difficult is that the relatives did not know about the child in foster care until very late in the case; after the child had been placed with the foster parent for many months.  In a trial I’m trying to prove that placement with the relatives is best, and the social worker and foster parent (who is now part of the case) is arguing that the child should stay with the foster parent because the child has developed a bond with the foster parent.

At the beginning of each case I instruct parent clients to make a list of 25 names of “friendly” relatives, and close family friends, to give to their attorneys and social workers.  You should include the name, address, phone number, email addresses (if available), and the relationship of this person to the child.  And if the mother does a list, and the father does a list that will be 50 people social services will have to investigate if the children are not returned to the parents at the very first hearing.

I’ve been confronted with the retort, Mr. Davis, pick one relative, and we will only do one investigation.  And that’s ok, if that relative is not approved, insist on going to the next relative and so on.  The social workers will be hard pressed to deny 50 relatives.

These relatives can be in the city or county you live in, the state you live in, anywhere in the United States, or in most foreign countries.  Don’t let a social worker tell you that a relative is disqualified because they live out of town.  In my opinion, that is not a legal reason for not placing with this relative (even if the parent/s are participating in family reunification and want to visit the child).

You are taking a BIG risk if you, as a parent, agree the child should not be placed with Aunt Faye in Montana, because your case is in Los Angeles and you want visitation.   This relative placement has a significant impact on the case in later hearings.  Hearings and considerations that your attorney or social worker may not explain at the beginning of the case.

Another benefit of placing with a relative at the beginning of the case is that it makes it easier for you to visit your children while they are out of your care.  Assuming the children are placed nearby. If Grandma lives in your town, she is more likely to allow you to see the children more often per week, and for longer periods of time, more than some random foster parent.  Remember these visits might have to be approved by the social worker, and if she doesn’t approve these visits, request your attorney to go to court to get the judge’s permission.  I practice in one Southern California County on a regular basis, where they permit visitation 1 time per week, for 1 to 2 hours.  And if I request more visitation for my clients, they look at me like you’re a space alien.  I believe the law actually says that visitation should be a frequent as possible.

Should you have any questions about relative placement, or getting your children to a relative and out of foster care, please give me a call.  888 888 6582.  We represent folks all over the state of California, and beyond if necessary.


Vincent W Davis, Esq.


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