What Happens When a Child is Taken into Protective Custody?
A Hotline call or a report is received of an alleged situation where there is possible abuse and neglect.
The Children's Division responds to the Hotline call and investigates the circumstances. They may involve the local police, Deputy Juvenile Officer, or a physician in their investigation. A police officer, Deputy Juvenile Officer, or physician can make the decision whether or not the child is in need of immediate protection. This is when temporary custody of the child is taken. The Juvenile Officer is notified of the situation and the child is placed in foster home care, residential care, or with an appropriate relative or appropriate friend of the family.
A Protective Custody Hearing is generally held, excluding weekends/holidays, within the first 72 hours the child is taken into custody. At this hearing a petition would be presented stating the allegations and the Juvenile Judge decides if there is enough evidence to hold a child until an adjudication/disposition hearing can be held.
At the time the Probable Cause Hearing is held, a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) will be appointed by the Juvenile Judge to conduct an independent investigation to further represent the "best interest of the child".
If the Judge determines that the child needs to be protected, the child will remain in the protective custody of the Juvenile Court, pending a full hearing on the petition. A further investigation is conducted by the Deputy Juvenile Officer to gather evidence to substantiate the allegations of the petition in the interest of the child.
At the adjudication/disposition hearing the Judge of the Juvenile Court considers all evidence and makes the final decision about what should happen concerning the child. (If the allegations of the petition are found true, the Judge will take jurisdiction and make the child a ward of the Court until 17 years of age and then determines the best placement of the child.)
If the child does not return home to the parents, then the Children's Division, CASA and Deputy Juvenile Officer will work with the parents to develop a Written Service Agreement. This agreement contains a list of items the parents must complete (i.e. counseling, parenting classes, anger control classes, drug/alcohol rehabilitation, stable housing and employment, etc.) to be reunited with their child and have the child return home. If the parent completes the Written Service Agreement, efforts are made to send the child home before 17 years of age. Periodic court reviews will be held on each case.
After a reasonable amount of time if the parents have not made progress through the services offered to them and the child has not returned home, a petition may be filed to terminate their parental rights and adoption of the children could then be considered.
When a CASA volunteer is appointed to a child's case, he or she is responsible for taking the time to find out as much as possible about that child. CASA volunteers search for information. They review records, interview parents, talk to teachers, neighbors, and most importantly, the child. The CASA volunteer appointed to a child's case must visit the child at least once per month. The CASA volunteer then appears in court to recommend to the Judge what's best for that child's future.