Pennsylvania’s child dependency system is designed to ensure that all children in the Commonwealth are properly cared for and protected. Teachers, religious leaders, other family members, and even neighbors may see or sense something in the way a child is being treated that leads to a report to Children and Youth Services (CYS), which could lead to a hearing before a Common Pleas court. If the court finds the child to be “dependent” – meaning the child is without proper care – the result could involve different steps, including the removal of the child to a different environment. Other steps might include drug, alcohol, and mental health evaluations for the parents and/or child, or participation in parenting classes and involving other family members in group decision-making. Don’t face this on your own. Contact a seasoned Montgomery County juvenile dependency lawyer from our legal team today.
Juvenile Dependency Lawyer | Here to Keep Your Family Together
If you are facing a child dependency hearing in or around Pottstown, Pennsylvania, or anywhere in Montgomery or Chester counties, contact a dedicated Montgomery family lawyer from Cohen & Patel. We are prepared to meet with you, assess the situation, and aggressively defend your rights.
Child Dependency Law in Pennsylvania
Child dependency is covered under Title 42 of the Consolidated Statutes of Pennsylvania. The statute lists several reasons that might warrant a dependency hearing. The system protects children who:
- Are without proper parental care or control, subsistence, education as required by law, or other control necessary for that child’s physical health, mental health, emotional health, or moral development;
- Have been placed for adoption in violation of law;
- Have been abandoned by their parents, guardian, or another custodian;
- Are without a parent, guardian, or legal custodian;
- Are habitually and without justification truant from school;
- Have committed an act of habitual disobedience of the reasonable and lawful commands of their parent, guardian, or other custodian and are ungovernable and found to be in need of care, treatment, or supervision;
- Are under the age of ten years and have committed a delinquent act;
- Were formerly under the jurisdiction of the court or on informal adjustment who commit an ungovernable act;
- Are born to a parent whose parental rights regarding another child have been involuntarily terminated within three years immediately preceding their date of birth, and the conduct of the parent poses a risk to their health, safety, or welfare.
Child Dependency Proceedings
If one or more of the above conditions that can lead to a dependency hearing are suspected, the CYS – Children and Youth Services – upon learning of the situation, will investigate and, depending on the results, petition the appropriate Common Pleas court. Family members and others can also file a dependency petition.
A hearing will subsequently be held to determine if the allegations are true. A hearing on the dependency petition is supposed to be scheduled within ten days of filing the petition. With certain exceptions, a hearing is held at least every ten days until the dependency petition is determined.
For any allegations to be proven true, clear and convincing evidence must be presented. As the Pennsylvania Code states: “Before the court can find a child to be dependent, there must be clear and convincing evidence in support of the petition. The burden of proof is on the petitioner. The court’s inquiry is to be comprehensive and its findings are to be supported by specific findings of fact and a full discussion of the evidence.”
Court Options in a Dependency Case
The court has options in a dependency case, but the overriding goal is to ensure that the child has a permanent home where proper care will be provided. The three likely options are:
- Ordering drug, alcohol, and/or mental health evaluations for the child or parents.
- Mandating the participation of the parents in parenting classes, family finding (locating other family members, and family group decision-making.
- Removing the child from the home for temporary placement in a foster home, group home, or institution.
If the child remains at home with the parent or guardians, the court will impose conditions and limitations as noted above, including court supervision for the protection of the child.
Can I Get My Child Back?
If your child is removed from you to live with relatives or elsewhere, such as in a foster home, you will be presented with a Family Service Plan (FSP) by your caseworker. Usually, the FSP will be created in consultation with you. The FSP will outline the steps you need to take to have your child returned to you.
Some of these steps may include:
- Parenting classes
- Anger management classes
- Mental health or emotional therapy, either by yourself or with your child
- Drug and alcohol treatment
- Classes or therapy to help you manage your child
Contact an Eastern Pennsylvania Juvenile Dependency Lawyer Today
If you’re facing a dependency hearing, it can be a very trying and emotional time. You might even lose your child if the allegations of abuse or other causes are proven true. The courts always try to maintain the family structure, but in some cases, the child may be removed for their own care, protection, and development. Contact Cohen & Patel today for help. Our firm proudly represents clients facing family law issues throughout Pennsylvania, including in East Norriton, Norristown, Allentown, Lancaster, Bensalem, Easton, Levittown, Bethlehem, Erie, Mechanicsburg, Chester, Harrisburg, and more.