Child Protective Proceedings
Child Protective Proceedings
Reporting Abuse & Neglect: Anyone, including a child, who suspects child abuse or neglect, that a child is in danger of physical injury or is living in a seriously damaging home environment can make a report by calling 855-444-3911 and filling out the form DHS-3200. In addition, the Child Protection Law requires certain professionals to report suspected child abuse or neglect. They are known Mandated Reporters.
Reports of suspected child abuse or neglect will either be
- Assigned for investigation
- Transferred to another agency for investigation, such as law enforcement or the Bureau of Child and Adult Licensing
Reports must meet the following three criteria to be assigned for investigation
- The alleged victim is under 18 years of age.
- The alleged perpetrator is a parent, legal guardian or other person responsible for the child's health and welfare.
- The allegations minimally meet the child abuse and neglect definitions in the Child Protection Law.
If the investigation substantiates child abuse or neglect, a report is forwarded it to the Prosecuting Attorney’s office. Upon review, the Prosecuting Attorney may file petition with Family Court. The Family Court then opens a file and the Family Division judge schedules and conducts a preliminary hearing.
If the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) requests immediate removal of the minor from the home, a hearing held within 24 hours of the filing of the petition. This hearing is held to see if there is probable cause for the removal of the minor. This hearing may also be a preliminary hearing or the preliminary hearing may continued to a later date.
If the DHHS does not request immediate removal of the minor, a preliminary hearing is scheduled. The minor will have a Guardian ad Litem (GAL) for this hearing. The GAL is an attorney who speaks to the best interests of the minor. The parent(s)/guardian(s) may request an attorney or may secure a private attorney to represent them. At the preliminary hearing the parent(s)/guardian(s) either admit or deny the allegations in the petition.
If the parent(s)/guardian(s) plea and admit jurisdiction, the DHHS prepares a predispositional report and a Parent/Agency Agreement. A dispositional hearing is held within a month of the court taking jurisdiction. If the minor is removed from the home, a review hearing of this matter is held every 91 days with a permanency plan filed 364 days from the filing of the petition. If the minor remains in the home, a review hearing must be held at least every 182 days. If there is compliance with all requirements and the child returns or remains home, the Department of Human Services may recommend closure of the matter. This would result in the case being closed.
If the parent(s)/guardian(s) deny the allegations in the petition and do not admit jurisdiction, the court appoints an attorney for the parent(s)/guardian(s). A pretrial is held at which time there could still be a plea or trial date is set.
At trial, the petitioner represented by the prosecutor must prove at least one of the allegations in the petition by a preponderance of the evidence.
If proven, the court takes jurisdiction. This starts a process of reasonable efforts to assist the family and, if the child has been removed from the home to return the child to the family, or if the child remains in his/her home to resolve the issues that prompted the petition.
If the parent(s) fail to comply with requirements, their parental rights to the minor(s) may be terminated. Termination proceedings are governed by statute and court rule and are not covered in this entry.