Today, I appeared for the first time for a mother on a juvenile dependency case. It was actually the client’s second time appearing in court. But she hired me because she was not satisfied with the court appointed attorney and the outcome of the first court appearance. In these types of cases the social worker, also known Child Protective Services (“CPS”), Department of Children and Family Services (“DCFS”) or some variation thereof, is asking the court to remove children from their parents or relatives.
In this case, CPS had taken away my client’s 5 children. They based the fact the children were removed on allegations of physical abuse, on one of the children, by an “unknown person.” Initially, the social worker took the children away from both parents, and scheduled an initial court date. At the initial court date, the juvenile dependency court ordered that the children remain detained from the parents and continued the case for a subsequent jurisdictional hearing.
After these events, the mother hired our firm to represent her in this case. Based on the story she told us, we were a little confused as to why the children were initially taken by the social worker, and why the court ordered continued detention of the children in foster care. Based on what the mother told us, we had concluded that there was no juvenile case, or need for juvenile court intervention, since the alleged perpetrator was not the mother, father or anyone living in the family home. When you read section 300 of the California Welfare and Institutions Code, the perpetrator of the abuse, or risk of abuse has to be the parent, legal guardian, or member of the household.
In this case, the alleged perpetrator was an unknown adult, living in an unknown place.
I appeared and the court released the children back to the parents; and the case was continued for a trial. The client, and the father, want the case thrown out and dismissed. In a short conversation with the social worker’s attorney I mentioned that the law actually requires that the abuse, or risk of abuse, be perpetrated by the parents or member of the household. He looked surprised, as if he, and everyone else on the case, had overlooked this technicality. He agreed with the recommendation that the children be released to the parents, but was not in agreement that the case be dismissed. So, the case was continued for an actual trial.
The morale of the story, make sure you read the law. And if you have questions or concerns, confer with your attorney. Sometimes the simplest things are overlooked.
Now, my client, after listening to me in court, wants to sue the County and the social worker for wrongfully taking her kids away from her. I told her we would be meeting on that issue in the next few days.
By the way, Juvenile Dependency cases are rarely this easy.
Should you have questions or comments, please don’t hesitate to call our offices.
Vincent W Davis
888 888 6582