Let’s start with what you need to know about dependency and neglect petitions and how our attorneys at Iyer Law Office in Denver can help you navigate a scary legal process with very serious consequences, including the removal of your children from your home and more importantly the termination of your parental rights.
Dependency and neglect cases usually result when a child is being abused or beyond the control of the parents. The children are most often placed in a shelter facility or foster home. Then a hearing must be held within forty-eight hours if law enforcement took the action or within seventy-two hours if the court took the action. The time frame excludes weekends and court holidays. If there are allegations of serious problems in the home, the child is usually not immediately returned to the parent’s home.
What is child abuse or neglect?
In Colorado, child abuse or neglect is an act or a failure to act in any of these situations:
- Injury or Death
A child shows proof of skin bruising, subdural hematoma, soft tissue swelling, malnutrition, failure to thrive, bleeding, burns, fracture of any bone, or death and
- it is not justifiably explained or
- the explanation about it doesn’t make sense with the degree or type of condition or
- the circumstances point to it not being an accident.
- Unlawful Sexual Behavior
A child is subjected to unlawful sexual behavior – assault, etc.
- In Need of Services
Dependency and neglect petitions may be because a child is in need of services because the parents failed to provide adequate food, clothing, shelter, medical care or supervision.
- Emotional Abuse
A child is considered to have been emotionally abused if there is a substantial and identifiable impairment of the child’s intellectual or psychological functioning or development, or there is a substantial risk of impairment.
- Manufacturing Controlled Substance
A controlled substance is manufactured or attempted to be manufactured in front of the child or where the child lives or is found.
What is a Dependent or Neglected Child?
In Colorado, a dependant and neglected child falls into one of these categories:
- Abandonment, Mistreatment or Abuse
A child whose parent has abandoned him, mistreated or abused him, or allowed someone else to mistreat or abuse him without taking lawful means to stop it from recurring.
- Lacking Parental Care
A child who lacks proper parental care.
- Injurious Environment
A child whose environment is injurious to his welfare.
- Subsistence, Education, and Medical Care
A child whose parent fails or refuses to provide the child subsistence, education, medical care, or any other care necessary for his health, guidance or well-being.
- Homeless or Not Living with Parent
A child who is homeless, without proper care, or not living with his parent but is no fault of the parent.
- Run Away or Beyond Control
A child who has run away from home or is beyond the control of his parent.
- Caused Death of Another Child
A child whose parent is habitually abusing them and has also caused the death of another child.
What Happens at a Dependency and Neglect Hearing?
This hearing determines if there will be a treatment plan, custody orders, or termination of parental rights for a child who has been adjudicated as dependent or neglected.
What is A Colorado Guardian ad Litem (GAL)?
A Guardian ad Litem, called a GAL, is a licensed attorney who is appointed by the court to act in the best interest of the child.
What is Temporary Shelter or Temporary Protective Custody?
For dependency and neglect petitions, the actual case can result in a child can be removed from their home and taken to a shelter or foster care facility by law enforcement or pursuant to a court order on the request of a human services caseworker. This occurs in one of these situations:
- Abandoned, Lost or Endangered
The child is abandoned, lost, or seriously endangered and their removal is needed for the child’s protection or the protection of others.
- Run Away
When a child has run away from home.
- Parental Kidnapping
When an arrest warrant has been issued for parental kidnapping.
What is the Dependency and Neglect Process?
Dependency and neglect cases are started with the filing of a petition. The parents are the respondents and are given a copy of the petition and told when to appear in court. They are advised of their rights regarding the petition and with the assistance of a child neglect attorney must decided to enter an admission or denial to the allegations.
If a parent admits the allegations, the child is adjudicated to be dependent or neglected. If the parent denies the allegations, he or she is entitled to have a trial.
There is a hearing to determine whether the preponderance of the evidence supports that a child is dependent and neglected. If there is an adjudication in a dependent and neglect case, that means the circumstances of the child meets one or more of the definitions of a neglected or dependent child that we discussed above. (CRS § 19-3-102) A treatment plan must be designed to try to correct the problems that initially gave rise to the filing of the case and any other problems within the family.
On the other hand, if there is no finding of dependency or neglect at trial and no admission by the parent, dependent and neglect petitions are dismissed. The child can go home and the court and human services are no longer involved with the family.
What Is A Treatment Plan?
In Colorado, the treatment plan will usually focus on the changes that the parents must make. Sometimes there are also required changes for the child. The treatment plan must be individually designed to meet the unique circumstances of each parent and each child.
Treatment plans can include parenting classes, counseling including substance abuse counseling and random urine analysis. Treatment plans may also include requirements that parents have safe and adequate housing, that they must have a job, and budget their money appropriately. If a child is not in their custody, a treatment plan may also require that the parents see their children regularly during supervised visits.
Addressing Sexual Assault in a Treatment Plan
In some circumstances involving sexual assault, the treatment plan may impose requirements on a child if one child in the family has sexually assaulted a sibling. In this case, the sexual assault perpetrator may be required to participate in counseling to address his assaultive behavior. In addition, the child victim of the sexual assault could also be required to attend counseling to address these issues. The parents could be required to attend counseling and classes to learn how to support both children’s treatment and to provide appropriate boundaries and supervision in the home.
Review of Custody
In the case where a child stays in the custody or supervision of the Department of Human Services, the court will review the case on a regular basis to determine whether all the requirements of the case treatment plan are being met.
There may be additional requirements added during the review if new problems are discovered. Other terms of the treatment plan can change regarding placement if it’s necessary to protect the best interests of the child.
What Happens if There is a Termination Of Parental Rights?
In a dependency and neglect case, a judge can terminate parental rights if it is proven that:
- Parents Did Not Comply
The parents have not complied with an appropriate treatment plan.
- Parents are Unfit
Although the parents have complied with the treatment plan, they are still unfit and no other services can be provided which would render the parents fit within a reasonable time.
- No Treatment Plan Appropriate
There is no treatment plan that could be created that could address the unfitness of the parents.
If a judge orders the termination of parental rights, it is final. This means that the parents no longer have legal rights to see the children or to direct how the children are raised. They are no longer their parents and the child may be adopted by another family. This is why it’s important to have an experienced child dependency attorney help you navigate the legal system.
If parental rights are terminated, human services will provide for their care in foster homes or other types of placements until they are adopted or reach at least age 18. For children who have been adjudicated dependent and neglected, the judge may require the Department of Human Services to provide care and services until the child is twenty-one years old.
Our attorney at the Iyer Law Office in Denver can help you through the legal process and tell you what you need to know about dependency and neglect petitions. Attorney Iyer will explain the situation, offer legal strategies, and speak on your behalf with the court and human services. He’ll use everything available to protect your family. It’s important to have legal representation because a dependency and neglect case can result in the removal of your children from your home or the termination of your parental rights.
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