What You Need to Know About Baby Court. Presented by Ryan Krench, Attorney General s Office

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1 What You Need to Know About Baby Court Presented by Ryan Krench, Attorney General s Office

2 ARIZONA JUVENILE DEPENDENCY LAW JUNE 6, 2014

3 THE PLAYERS: Arizona Department of Economic Security (ADES or the Department) Arizona Office of the Attorney General (AGO) Parents Attorneys Guardians ad Litem (GALs) and Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs) Children s Attorneys Judges and Commissioners Service Providers The Families

4 ARIZONA DEPARTMENT OF ECONOMIC SECURITY Mission: The Arizona Department of Economic Security promotes the safety, well- being, and self-sufficiency of children, adults, and families. Vision: Every child, adult, and family in the state of Arizona will be safe and economically secure.

5 ARIZONA OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL Part of Arizona s Executive Branch Constitutionally Mandated, Article V. Section I Legal Advisor to (most) State Agencies and Departments, A.R.S Mission: The Office of the Attorney General will provide comprehensive legal protection to the citizens of Arizona and quality legal services to the state agencies by upholding the Constitution and enforcing the law in a fair and just manner. Main Office Locations: Phoenix, Tucson, Prescott

6 ARIZONA OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL To fulfill responsibilities, split into Legal Divisions and Administrative Offices Legal Divisions: Child and Family Protection, including Juvenile Dependency cases Civil, Criminal, Criminal Appeals, Capital Litigation Public Advocacy and Civil Rights Solicitor General Administrative Offices: Administrative Services Business and Finance Community Outreach

7 PARENTS ATTORNEYS Parents have a Constitutional right to parent their children The State, however, has the power to intervene if there are allegations that a child is abused, neglected, or otherwise dependent Because of these competing interests, all parents are allowed legal representation in juvenile dependency proceedings Indigent parents are entitled to representation at public expense. In Maricopa County: Office of the Legal Advocate Office of the Public Advocate Office of the Legal Defender Office of Public Defense Services

8 GALS AND CASAS Guardians Ad Litem are attorneys appointed by the court to represent the best interests of the children. Key distinction: GALS do not advocate for what a child WANTS, but rather what the GAL believes is in the child s best interests Court Appointed Special Advocates Volunteers Lay people

9 CHILDREN S ATTORNEYS Appointed by the Court to represent children to advocate for what the child wants, which may conflict with what a GAL or CASA believes is in the child s best interests Usually reserved for children who are at least 12 years old, but can be appointed for younger children As a result, any child on a given case can have both an attorney and a GAL advocating different positions

10 THE BENCH: JUDGES AND COURT COMMISSIONERS Maricopa County has two Juvenile Court Facilities: Durango Juvenile Court in Phoenix South East Facility (SEF) in Mesa Juvenile Court has exclusive jurisdiction over dependency matters Judges and Commissioners Dependencies Dual wards: dependencies and delinquencies Baby Court

11 SERVICE PROVIDERS Services can be offered through DES-contracted providers or through community resources Common services include Drug Testing/Drug Treatment Parenting Classes and Coaches Psychological/Psychiatric Evaluation and Treatment Anger Management/Domestic Violence Treatment and Classes Individual, Family, Group Counseling and Therapy In-home Services, including Family Preservation Services and Family Reunification Teams

12 WHAT IS JUVENILE DEPENDENCY? Legal Proceedings with Court Oversight to Determine if A minor child is legally dependent, Whether the child can be safely returned to the parents care, What services are necessary to correct parental deficiencies, If a child cannot be returned to the parents care, what alternative, viable permanent plans are available for the child Overall, what is in the child s best interests?

13 DEPENDENT CHILD A child adjudicated by the court to be In need of proper and effective parental care and control, or who has no parent or guardian willing or able to exercise such, Destitute or not provided with necessities of life, including food, clothing, shelter, or medical care, A child whose home is unfit by reason of abuse, neglect, cruelty, or depravity by a parent, guardian, or any other person having custody or care of the child, An incorrigible or delinquent child under age 8, or Mentally incompetent and alleged to have committed a serious offense

14 HOW DOES IT ALL WORK? The dependency process starts when CPS receives a report alleging that a child is dependent The report is reviewed to determine if removal from the home is necessary and supported by the law and facts, or To determine that the child can remain in the home with appropriate services If DES alleges that a child is dependent, a petition is filed with the Juvenile Court In the case of a removal, the petition must be filed within 72 hours of removal (excluding holidays and weekends) Other factors to consider at the outset: Has paternity been established? Are all parents aware that this is taking place? Is the child an Indian Child? Special Federal rules exist for such cases

15 OKAY, SO CPS REMOVES A CHILD AND FILES A DEPENDENCY PETITION NOW WHAT? The Juvenile Court sets a Preliminary Protective Conference and Hearing within 5 to 7 days of removal. This is the first time a parent can appear in court for the case Issues to address include Placement of the child relative, family friend, licensed foster care, group home Visitation between the child and parents Services DES is offering to the parents and whether the parents agree to engage Will the parents agree that the child is a dependent child, thereby foregoing the right to a contested dependency trial? If so, the child is then legally declared dependent and the court schedules a review hearing If not, the Court then schedules mediation, a pre-trial conference, and potentially a trial

16 ALRIGHT, SO IF THERE IS NO RESOLUTION AT THE PRELIMINARY HEARING, THEN WHAT? Mediation within 30 days: similar to the Preliminary Protective Conference A mediator meets with the parties to determine if the passage of a few weeks has changed their position If so, and the parents agree to the dependency, the child is adjudicated dependent If not, the parties attend a Pre-Trial Conference, usually on the same day The Court sets a contested trial The parties present evidence in the form of documents and testimony Bench Trials = No jury! Formal proceedings, the rules of evidence apply Trials last as long as necessary, from thirty minutes to more than a week.

17 DEPENDENCY TRIAL One of two outcomes: The court determines the evidence is not sufficient to adjudicate a child dependent and dismisses the case. Child goes home and CPS has no more involvement. OR The court determines a child is dependent under the statute and holds a disposition hearing. Disposition usually on the same day, but must be within 30 days of the adjudication

18 DISPOSITION: WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE? The disposition is, essentially, the plan for this case Placement Visitation Services Case Plan, the permanent plan for the child: Family Reunification the goal in every dependency Severance and adoption terminating parental rights Guardianship leaving the parental rights legally intact, but placing the child with a legal guardian, theoretically until age 18, although a guardianship may be revoked Independent Living/Young Adult Program for children over age 16

19 SO, WE ARE ALL DONE WITH COURT, RIGHT? NOT EVEN REMOTELY. Dependencies are reviewed by the court on a regular basis, at least every 6 months These reviews include permanency hearings within 12 months of removal HOWEVER, for children under the age of 3, the permanency hearing must be held within 6 months of removal As you will see, the timelines for children 3 and under are accelerated

20 REVIEWS AND PERMANENCY HEARINGS The Court holds hearing and reviews reports from the DES Case Manager, any service providers, and hears from the parents, GALs, and other interested parties If the parents are making sufficient progress to satisfy the Court, Family Reunification will usually remain the permanent plan If not, the Court will likely move in a different direction The law is specific for children under 3. Parents must engage and succeed very quickly and meaningfully in such cases. As a result, Arizona Juvenile Courts, and specifically Maricopa County, have designed what is commonly known as Baby Court.

21 BABY COURT AND CRADLE TO CRAYONS Research has shown a strong correlation between permanency and a secure attachment to a child s successful development into productive adults As a result, Maricopa County has implemented C2C in order to streamline cases involving 0-3 children Specially trained judges are assigned to C2C cases Community Coordinators work with the Court, public and private agencies, and families Visit coaching designed to improve the parent-child relationship, teach parents handson skills, and increase the likelihood of successful reunification Child/Parent Psychotherapy collaboration with on-site clinical staff and coaches Dependency Drug Court Trauma Therapy

22 BABY COURT GOALS Decrease the time it takes to make the first finding of dependency (adjudication) Decrease the average length of dependency court cases Increase the percentage of cases that result in permanency Ensure all children age 0-3 receive preventive health screenings in a timely manner Increase awareness in the child welfare community on the negative impact abuse and neglect have on very young children Improve coordination between community services to ensure 0-3 children receive all necessary and appropriate services Increase successful parent/child reunification rates whenever possible

23 BUT DIDN T YOU SAY THAT TIMELINES ARE ACCELERATED AND PARENTS HAVE TO QUICKLY AND SUCCESSFULLY ENGAGE? YES, YES I DID. One of the possible permanent plans for a child is severance and adoption There are a number of grounds that can be alleged to support terminating parental rights, including, among other grounds:

24 TERMINATING PARENTAL RIGHTS GROUNDS Abandonment Neglect or wilful abuse of a child, A parent cannot discharge parental responsibilities due to mental illness or substance abuse that will continue for a prolonged, indeterminate period, A parent has committed a certain felony or is in prison for a lengthy period of time due to a felony conviction, A child has been out of the parent s care for 9 months or longer and the parent has substantially neglected or wilfully refused to remedy the circumstances that brought the child into care, A child has been out of the parent s care for 15 months or longer and the parent has been unable to remedy the circumstances that brought the child into care and there is a substantial likelihood that the parent will not be capable of exercising proper and effective parental control in the near future, OR

25 REMEMBER HOW THE FIRST PERMANENCY PLANNING MUST BE HELD WITHIN 3 MONTHS INSTEAD OF 6 FOR CHILDREN UNDER 3? A child who is under three years of age has been in an out-of-home placement for a cumulative total period of SIX MONTHS or longer pursuant to court order and the parent has substantially neglected or wilfully refused to remedy the circumstances that cause the child to be in an out-of-home placement, INCLUDING refusal to participate in reunification services offered by the Department.

26 OVER/UNDER 3 The impact of the accelerated timelines is clear Many regular dependencies can take a year, two years, or longer to reach a resolution On the other hand, in cases with children under age 3, the permanent plan is determined very quickly and if the parents are not fully engaged and succeeding with treatment, therapy, or any other services, the Department can file a Motion to Terminate Parental Rights just 6 months after the child was removed. To be clear, this is NOT 6 months after the adjudication. The is 6 months after the court first authorizes the removal, usually at the time the dependency petition is filed. Hypothetically, the Department could file a Dependency petition on March 1, the Court authorizes the removal that day, the parents have their preliminary hearing five days later, a dependency trial is set 90 days after removal, on June 1, the child is adjudicated dependent, the parents do not engage in the 3 months after the adjudication, and the Department then files a severance motion.

27 CASE PERMANENCY: WHEN DOES THE COURT OVERSIGHT END? Much like Dependency Adjudications themselves, Dependency cases last as long as necessary to achieve permanency Court involvement ends, and the dependency is dismissed, with one of several possible outcomes: Parental rights terminated, child adopted = Dependency dismissed Legal Dependency Guardianship is put in place = Dependency dismissed Child ages out, turning 18 while still a ward of the court = Dependency dismissed Or, best outcome: Child returns home after the parents have successfully completed required services = Dependency dismissed

28 After that, DCS, AGO, defense attorneys, the court, the gals, casas and service providers are out of the family s life

29 and we can all move on to the next case.

30 Ryan M. Krench Assistant Attorney General Arizona Office of the Attorney General

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