There are very few events in life that are greater seismic shifts then having a child removed from the home. Regardless of the reason that a DCPP (formerly DYFS) investigation was started there is a chance that the outcome will be a loss of communication with a child. Remember that complaints are submitted anonymously, so you may not even be aware that it's happened until they knock on your door.
While it's difficult to imagine not being able to see their child, it’s important to understand what the steps are that can happen after the initial investigation has concluded. Previous blogs discussed what happens during the investigation and the 4 potential outcomes. We want you to be in the best position to get your child back from foster care.
If the abuse you've been accused of has been found substantiated, ‘dispositional’ hearings will be held. These traditionally come immediately after the initial investigation and include a list the judge has put together of steps you must complete before a reunification of the family can take place.
After the dispositional hearings, review hearings happen every few months to check on the progress of the case. Every effort should be made to keep in contact with your attorney as they will be provided reports by the DCPP. These reports document the changes you’re making (or aren’t making) to get your child back such as home environment changes and interactions during the scheduled time with them. In many cases your lawyer will request you speak with a defense expert such as a psychologist to help provide testimony in your case.
After about a year if the child is not back in the home, permanency hearings will take place. A permanency hearing takes place every 12 months in large part due to ASFA (Adoption and Safe Families Act.) The act's hope is to avoid a child spending long periods of time in foster care. The hearings will be to determine the next steps in the case. There are five possible outcomes.
Reunification – Certainly the best outcome of the five, Reunification is the allowance for the child to return home now or in the immediate future.
Three-Month Extension – Your lawyer may ask for a one to three month extension before a final permanency hearing. Often times this outcome is due to the parent showing great strides in their ability to provide a safe environment for the child but still needing more work to be done.
Custody to other parent or relative – This outcome is for when only one of the parents is being investigated and the court awards custody to the other. This does not mean that the parent who originally had custody will not have an opportunity to regain it in the future or lose all parental rights.
Kinship Legal Guardianship – When the child is going to stay long term with a relative or family friend this is a Kinship Legal Guardianship, but it does not involve the adoption of the child. The guardian will be able to make decisions for the child such as medical treatments and education planning. While the parent will be able to visit the child and have an obligation for child support.
Termination of Parental Rights – This is the worst case scenario. If DCPP/DYFS determine that there is no possibility of reunification they will terminate the parental rights.
If there is a parental rights termination, though devastating, it is not the end of potential ways for the child to be placed back into the home. The steps a case goes through after the hearings and going into a trial will be discussed further in a forthcoming blog.
If you are seeking representation for a family law case or are being investigated by the DCPP, call today for a free consultation 800-709-1131 or fill out a contact form on our website for a no-cost consultation. We hope to hear from you today!