Practice Areas

Juvenile Dependency

Juvenile or child dependency proceedings determine whether a child’s parent or guardian is abusive or neglectful. In dependency proceedings, the juvenile court may temporarily or permanently remove the child from the parent’s home. If the child is removed temporarily, the court can order continued monitoring and services to the family (called family reunification services), with the goal of returning the child to the home. If a child is permanently removed from the home, the court may terminate the parent’s rights and another family can adopt the child.

Juvenile courts also handle delinquency cases, in which a child under the age of 18 is accused of committing a crime or a status offense (a violation that is illegal only because of the child’s age, such as truancy). Different rules apply in dependency cases and delinquency cases, although unfortunately, many children in dependency cases later end up in delinquency cases.

What Constitutes Abuse or Neglect?

While each state has its own laws governing what sort of behavior can result in dependency proceedings, generally, they arise as a result of physical abuse (injury), sexual abuse, neglect (failure to provide adequate food, clothing, shelter, medical care, or supervision), abandonment, or severe emotional abuse. Abuse and neglect can have many different causes, but parental drug addiction and untreated mental illness are both big risk factors.

The following are examples of abuse and neglect:

A father who beats a child, causing injury and hospitalization
A mother who fails to call police and allows her boyfriend to spend time alone with children after they tell her that he is sexually abusive
A guardian who does not send a child to school regularly does not keep the house stocked with food, and regularly leaves a young child alone.
Parents who make methamphetamine at home and expose their children to toxic chemicals, drug sales, and drug abuse.
Many of the behaviors that can constitute abuse or neglect are also crimes.