Child Protection & Welfare Cases in California
Child Protective Services (CPS) is a governmental agency designated by the State to respond to and investigate allegations of child abuse and/or neglect. Any person can report, anonymously, an instance of abuse and/or neglect to CPS. Frequently, law enforcement, when investigating other crimes, may be required to mandatorily cross report suspicion of possible child abuse and/or neglect. The same is true for mandated reports such as doctors, teachers, therapists and even first responders when they discover in the course of their work reasonable suspicion of child abuse and/or neglect.
Despite the above, CPS is a large, bureaucratic organization that sometimes lacks sensitivity to unique family dynamics. CPS can overlook the rights of parents and not adhere to the boundaries of state power. These oversights can act to the detriment of the same children and families that CPS seeks to assist. An effective attorney can help you during this critical investigation phase.
Tiffany L. Andrews, CWLS has a wealth of experience with child protective services cases in California and brings compassion and understanding to your side. She knows that the happiness and health of your child(ren) is/are most important to you, and has spent years in the courtroom as a powerful advocate in dependency hearings. More recently, as a child advocate, Mrs. Andrews authored affirmative legislation in an effort to improve the dependency and family law systems as it relates to abused and/or neglected children who may actually find themselves in an abusive and/or neglectful situation, however, CPS has not sought to step in or failed to substantiate allegations.
Protective Parent Who Ends Up in Family Law
While working in dual fields such as dependency and family law, Mrs. Andrews has learned that not all cases wherein abuse and/or neglect exist wind up with CPS substantiating allegations, detaining a child and/or even filing a juvenile dependency petition. Some may think this is great that CPS does not step in, however, it is important to also realize that if you are the protective parent and you are left to utilize the family law system in order to protect your child, you will meet more restrictive evidentiary standards, not be entitled to the same free legal counsel as in juvenile dependency court and, if the abuse/neglect is legally determined to be true, there is a lack of similar reporting requirements as exist in the current dependency system. A family law and child welfare law attorney who is familiar with these complex areas of overlap will greatly assist anyone going through a similar experience.
Mrs. Andrews, who has been certified as a specialist since 2011 by the National Association of Counsel for Children and further recognized by the California Board of Legal Specialization has earned a reputation for excellence in these areas of the law.
In California, child welfare law is otherwise known as Dependency Law. A dependent child is any child under the age of 18 who has been abandoned, abused, or neglected, or else has no capable parent, guardian, or custodian. The child is therefore in danger of physical or psychological harm. Once a dependency petition is filed, juvenile court holds a hearing within a couple of days.
Non-Minor Dependent Youth
There are also now non-minor dependent children wherein the child had been made a dependent during their minority but has chosen to stay a dependent until he/she fulfills certain goals in order to successfully exit the system at some point beyond the age of 18. This is usually done in order to allow the non-minor dependent a chance to become a capable, educated and financially stable young adult.
After the first hearing, otherwise known as a Detention hearing, a jurisdiction hearing is required to be held within a couple weeks to determine if the allegations can be proven beyond a preponderance of the evidence. If the court finds that the allegations are true and declares the child a dependent, the court can then remove the child from the home and place in foster care or with a relative, or in some cases, the child can remain at home or even be placed with the non-offending parent.
A child generally enters the dependency system when Child Protective Services (CPS), a division of the Department of Health and Human Services files a dependency petition. By law, typically, unless special circumstances exist, the parents receive reunification services. The case is reviewed periodically, until:
The child returns to the parents;
Reunification Services are terminated and a hearing is set for a permanent plan; or
Termination of parental rights occurs or some other form of permanency can be established such as adoption, guardianship or long-term foster care.
In a dependency case, each party including the child(ren) are represented by appointed counsel and, generally, there is no cost to the parties. The Law Office of Tiffany L. Andrews has extensive experience representing clients in this complex area of the law including, but not limited to, assisting those relatives and non-relatives whom have been identified by CPS as suitable to provide care for the child or children while the parents are attempting to reunify.
Parental Rights and Relative Placement
It is devastating when the State takes a child from the home. But parents still have many rights. Without an attorney who understands these rights and can navigate the child welfare system, and sometimes the overlap with family law, it can be difficult to protect parental rights.
Moreover, California law requires that children removed from their parents’ custody be placed with family first. This is commonly referred to as the “relative preference”. Unfortunately, CPS is not always successful in locating relatives, and the children are consequently placed in foster care. If CPS identifies relatives after the fact, the organization is reluctant to remove the child or children from foster care unless a removal from that care giver is deemed necessary in the future.
Removal from Foster Parents
Foster parents play a key role for children throughout dependency and administrative proceedings. Foster parents, both relative and non-relative, can also be investigated for allegations of abuse and neglect, similarly to any person who parents a child.
The Law Office of Tiffany L. Andrews has a deep and compassionate understanding for the foster parent perspective. We have represented many such parents in numerous types of cases including both dependency and adoption proceedings. We are happy to discuss your unique situation with you and are available to represent your interests.