The real nightmare of juvenile dependency court begins once you get inside. Many families are in for a rude awakening upon entry. The average juvenile dependency case begins with the removal of your children by a CPS employee or “social worker”. The grounds for detention are listed in detail in WIC 300, but most cases involve a criminal arrest of one or both parents, domestic violence in the home, drug or alcohol problems, excessive discipline or physical or sexual abuse of the children (including unexplained or suspicious injuries), or a positive drug screen in the hospital during child birth. Cases involving general neglect such as a “dirty house” cases or failure to supervise a latchkey kid do surface from time to time, but most cases of this type do not result in actual removal of children from the home and hence no court hearings.
Almost every family facing that first hearing in juvenile dependency court at Edmund D. Edleman Children’s court is lead to believe that they are going to find out if they can get their children released from the system and take them home after that first hearing. Social workers will often present this possibility to the parents to calm the natural anger and frustration of having your children taken from your home by the government. Families expect to be able to give their side of the story at that first hearing (also known as a detention hearing), straighten things out and go home. Most of the time, this is far from the case as the detention hearing is merely the first step in a long process. The average juvenile dependency case does not end at that first hearing, or even the second or third hearing. Most cases last about 9 months, with many lasting years. Sadly, many cases end in the complete termination of parental rights and the children never go home.
Anyone facing a matter in Edmund D Edelman Children’s Court or any juvenile dependency court in Southern California is strongly encouraged to immediately seek the assistance of a lawyer with experience in juvenile dependency court. Court appointed lawyers are also available and anyone unable to retain the services of a private attorney should request court appointed counsel at the first possible opportunity. The juvenile dependency system is an incredibly complex proceeding and the legal intricacies often lead to frustration and anger. This anger will usually be turned against you by the system and delay the return of your children or eliminate your chances completely. The time you are allowed to reunify with your children in California Juvenile Dependency Court is set by statute and it’s a virtual ticking time bomb. There is no time to be angry or hung up on the injustices of the system. Those who focus on what they perceive to be “fair” end up picketing the courthouse and writing to their congressmen after their parental rights are terminated.