Dependency and neglect cases usually result when a child is being abused or beyond the control of the parents. The child is typically taken from their home and placed in a shelter facility or foster home.
At most, a parent has just 72 hours to prepare for a hearing. If there are allegations of serious, perhaps life-threatening, problems in the home, a child may not immediately be returned to the parent’s home.
To navigate this legal process and avoid consequences such as the termination of your parental rights, it’s important to speak with a child dependency and neglect attorney like the Iyer Law Office in Denver. We will defend your rights and work relentlessly to keep your family together.
Today, we offer an overview of Colorado law so that you can better understand your case and how it will be dealt with by the courts.
Child Dependency and Neglect According to Colorado Law
It is considered 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 bone(s), or death. In addition, it is not justifiably explained, or the explanation 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, sexual assault, or any other related violations.
- In Need of Services – Dependency and neglect petitions may be submitted if a child is in need of services because the parents failed to provide adequate food, clothing, shelter, medical care or proper 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.
Definition of a Dependent or Neglected Child
In Colorado, a dependent or neglected child falls into one of these categories:
- Abandonment, Mistreatment or Abuse – This may be a direct action of the parent or guardian or through allowing another person to abuse the child without legal action or preventing it.
- Lacking Proper Parental Care
- Injurious Environment
- Subsistence, Education, and Medical Care
- Homeless or Not Living with Parent
- Run Away or Beyond Control
- Caused Death of Another Child
- Tested Positive at Birth for Certain Controlled Substances
About Temporary Shelter / Protective Custody
For child dependency and neglect petitions, the 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.
An Overview of the Dependency and Neglect Process
Child 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 for the hearing. They are advised of their rights regarding the petition and with the help of a child neglect attorney must decide to enter an admission or denial to the allegations.
A hearing will then determine whether the evidence supports that a child is dependent and neglected. 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. The parent will be represented by their own counsel.
If there is an “adjudication” in a dependency 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.
If there is no finding of child dependency or neglect or admission by a parent, a petition is dismissed. The child can go home and the court and human services are no longer involved with the family.
Treatment Plan Options for D&N Cases
In Colorado, the treatment plan in child dependency and neglect cases will usually focus on 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.
Sexual Assault in a Treatment Plan
In 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.
Ongoing Reviews of Custody
If 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 see that 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 can change regarding placement if it’s necessary to protect the best interests of the child.
Deciding to Terminate Parental Rights
In a child 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 and neglect 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.
Help for Your Child Dependency and Neglect Case
Because your case can result in the removal of your child from your home or the termination of your parental rights, you need an experienced and aggressive attorney. The Iyer Law Office in Denver can help you through the process, offer powerful legal strategies, and speak on your behalf with the court and Human Services. We will use every legal means available to keep your family together.