Stages of a Case

I. Start of a Case



In Home Dependency: The Agency may feel that your case needs court oversight while you attend services to address their concerns. This will allow you to keep your children in your home while you address the concerns.

Placement: Dependency that starts with a voluntary or involuntary placement would continue as a placement Dependency. This is where the court has oversight and your children are in Foster Care, Formal Kinship Care, or Informal Kinship Care. Each type of care is very different and can affect your case. The biggest benefits to your child(ren) being placed in kinship care are that visitation can be more liberally established and, if the agency ever looks to terminate your rights, you may still be allowed contact with your child(ren) by virtue of them being adopted by a friend/family member.

Informal Agency Involvement

This is when the Agency offers you supportive services to address their concerns. There is no court action at this time and your cooperation is purely voluntary.

Voluntary Placement Agreement

This is where you agree to place the children in care with either a Foster Parent or a family or friend for a period of up to 30 days. If the problem is not addressed within that time, court action will follow.

Emergency Shelter Care

This is when the Agency seeks an ex-parte Order from the court to remove your children based on the concerns of the Agency. A Shelter Care hearing must be held within 72 hours before the court so you may be informed as to why your children were removed and to respond.

Shelter Care

This is the time the Agency has, under court Order, removed your children from your care. A hearing is held within 72 hours to inform you of the reasons they were taken and to allow you the chance to respond. Read more...

You typically have two options, agree to leave your children in Shelter Care and come back for a Dependency Hearing within 10 days, or to have a Shelter Care Hearing. If you choose to have a hearing and win, the children would be returned to you. If you lose, then the children remain in care until a Dependency Hearing within 10 days. It is important that you identify all kinship care resources (close family members or friends) that are willing to take your child(ren) as soon as possible so that they can be placed with family/friends and not with strangers while you work through your services.

II. Ongoing Case


Dispositional Hearing

This is where services are formally assigned by the court. Any services you are required/ recommended to do, you need to do - with 100% effort 100% of the time. Read more...

The court will not allow you to justify missing classes/services/drug screens due to bad weather, oversleeping, car trouble, sickness, or lack of minutes on a cell phone. Your caseworker can provide you with a bus pass or a cab, you just need to ask. If you are required to call in daily for drug screens, failing to do so is considered a positive screen by the court. If you must miss a service appointment for a true emergency, please call before hand to cancel, do not call after it is missed. Also promptly reschedule it and do not miss the rescheduled appointment. Sometimes it takes a month to schedule the makeup appointments.

Review Hearing

The court will hold review hearings to address specific concerns of any party as the case goes on. These can be scheduled as needed.

Permanency Review

These reviews are held at least every 6 months and review all parties’ compliance and progress with the services assigned at or after the dispositional hearing. These services can be found in the latest Family Service Plan.

III. End of Case


Return Home: If you have been successful in your services in a timely manner, typically within a year, your children will be returned to you, or if they are already with you, the Agency and the Court will be removed from your life.

Sometimes though, it is not feasible to return children home and then other permanency plans need to be made. Some of those are:

Subsidized Permanent Legal Custodianship (SPLC)

This is when custody of your children is confirmed with the caregivers they were placed with. Your parental rights are still intact and the case can continue in private custody court. The caregiver will receive a stipend from the government to help care for your children while they remain in their care.

Permanent Legal Custodianship (PLC)

This is where custody is confirmed with the caregiver, your parental rights are still intact, but the caregivers do not receive any stipend for caring for the children.

Termination of Parental Rights/Adoption

Unfortunately, a time may come in a case that the law supports terminating your parental rights to free your children for adoption. This will forever sever your parental rights with your child and, unless the Foster Parents are willing offer continuing contact, you may never see your children again. Once your rights are terminated, you have no right to file for custody in the future. Rights can be terminated for a number of reasons, such as, 6 months of failing to keep regular contact with your child, failure to remedy the circumstances that gave rise to placement for a period of 12 months (this can be more or less depending on your compliance and progress), or a lengthy term of imprisonment. Some of these grounds for termination may seem draconian in nature, but they are very real and the Agency often uses them and that is why it is important to be successful in your services.

Common Terms and Other Considerations:

Guardian ad Litem

This is your children’s attorney. This person not only looks out for your children’s legal interest and desires, but also what is in your children’s best interests. These two distinct roles do not always mean the same thing.

Child Protective Services (CPS) Investigation

This is a separate investigation and determination from your child being in care. This is typically an investigation if you as a parent or guardian have abused, neglected, or ignored the abuse of your children to the extent that it requires registration on the child abuse registry. This can be expunged and removed from your record.

Attorney Client Privilege

You only have confidentiality with your attorney. Anything you tell your Children and Youth caseworker, their attorney, the court, the Guardian ad Litem, or anyone else can be used against you. If you are unsure if you should disclose something speak to an attorney about it first about it. Likewise, if Children and Youth asks you to submit to an interview where a police officer is present, all information you disclose will be used to assess if criminal charges are applicable to your situation. Please remember that you have the right to remain silent without counsel present. You also have the right to terminate the interview at anytime to obtain counsel.

Records and Credibility

Keep a log of all times you call the Agency or a service provider, if they respond, if a message was left, when they call you, and what is said. Furthermore, keep copies of everything. When push comes to shove, unless you have some documentation to back up what you are saying, it is your word versus the Agency’s or service providers’ at the time of a hearing. Your caseworker and service providers are keeping a log of when they contact you and you should do the same. Remember, your life is being scrutinized not theirs’.