Assuming the children were not returned at the .21e hearing – this is the 12 month hearing.
During this period, you are still assigned a social worker, (FR Worker). It is supposed to be his/her job to reunify the parents with the children.
During this period “Concurrent Planning” continues, and seems to take on a more important status. The theory being that since you haven’t regained custody, it may be unlikely that you may regain custody in the future. This process relates to the social worker developing a plan for the children to be permanently placed outside your home; in the event you are unable to reunify with them.
You can easily see that this Concurrent Planning sometimes clashes with the Family Reunification plan and its goals.
During this period, if the children have not been returned to your custody, it is extremely important for you to continue to participate in the Family Reunification Plan that was ordered by the judge, including consistent visits to your children. You also need to keep in written/email contact with your attorney to keep him/her informed of the progress you are making in the FR plan.
At the actual hearing, if the social worker recommends that the children not be returned to your custody at this time, you are entitled to have a trial at a future date. And, in most cases, I recommend that you take advantage of this hearing. My recommendation is based on my experience, but it does vary from case to case.
If you have a trial, it is handled like the trials described above. It is extremely important that you meet and strategize with your attorney.
You will need to subpoena witnesses that will testify on how you have progressed with your FR plan. Their opinions may significantly differ from the opinion of the social worker. Of course, you’d want the judge to hear this evidence.
At the end of the trial the court could do several things:
- Adopt the social workers recommendation not to return the children at this time
- Return the children, despite the social workers recommendations
- Liberalize your visitation, from supervised to unsupervised
- Modify you FR case plan
- Set the case for a hearing pursuant to WIC 366.26 hearing to permanently place your children out of your care.
- If this happens, you should confer with your attorney to develop a plan to remedy this situation.
- If you cannot accomplish this, you should seek a second opinion from a competent attorney. Time is of the essence, and you should not delay.
- There are other appellate remedies which are available, but you must speak to your attorney, because there is a relatively short time period for you to act.
The exact thing the court is likely to do at this point, like many other things in this process, determines on the specifics facts of your case.
And what the court decides at this point, will usually control what you and your attorney should do. But always consult with your attorney, or seek a competent second opinion.