Juvenile Neglected and Deprived Cases
Basic Framework of a Juvenile Deprived or Neglected Case
- 1. Your child/ren are initially removed from your home by a Department of Human Services (“DHS”) Investigator, likely with the help of a Sheriff’s Deputy. This process is called “Removal”.
- a. Your child/ren will be placed in a Fosterhome, which can be someone unknown to the family or a kinship placement
- b. Be sure to give to DHS the names, addresses and phone numbers of all your relatives (and, perhaps, close friends of the family) that would be willing to care for your child/ren during this pendency of your Juvenile case, as they should be given priority. This will enable DHS to go through their approval process, which includes a background check, as soon as possible and shorten the time your child/ren are not with someone that they don’t know
- c. If you have another action already started in a Domestic case in the same or a different county where your minor child/ren are involved, the part of that action that deals with your child/ren will be stayed (no longer addressed in the Domestic case) until the Juvenile case is completed
2. An Emergency Custody Hearing is set to determine if it is in the best interests of your minor child/ren to remain in DHS temporary custody
- a. This hearing must be set within 2 judicial days following the child being taken into protective or emergency custody
3. At that hearing, DHS and the Assistant District Attorney (“ADA”), on behalf of the State of Oklahoma, and you will present evidence to the Judge, who makes the decision as to whether:
- a. Your child/ren are returned to you, or
- b. Your child/ren remain temporarily in DHS Custody
4. If it was not done by the time of the Emergency Custody Hearing, the judge will set another court appearance to give the ADA time to make a decision as to whether or not the State plans to file a Deprived Petition, which sets forth the bases of why the State and DHS believe that, under the circumstances at the time of Removal, your child/ren were deprived and/or neglected in your care
- a. The ADA has 7 judicial days from the date the child is taken into custody, unless the Judge determines that there are compelling reasons to grant additional time not to exceed 15 calendar days from the date of Removal.
5. At that next court appearance,
- a. If the ADA does file a Petition, you will be served with the newly filed Petition and the case proceeds, or
- b. If the ADA does not file a Petition, your child/ren are returned to you
6. You will have the right to be represented by an attorney going forward and a court-appointed attorney will be given to you that day, if one was not previously assigned to you. You can refuse that appointment and hire another attorney, if you want to do so
- a. Your child/ren also have the right to have an attorney and one will be appointed for them as well
- b. During your case, a Court Appointed Special Advocate (“CASA”) may also be appointed. This is a person from the community who volunteers to assist the court in your case to determine the best interests for your child/ren. He or She will likely check on your progress throughout the case and help with the needs and care of your child/ren, as they arise
7. At that court date or the very next one, you can either: (1) “Stipulate” to the Petition where you tell the court that the facts of the Petition are true, (2) ask for a continuance to give your attorney a chance to work with the ADA to see if the Petition can be changed to wording to which you could agree, or (3) request a trial (“Adjudication Hearing”) to determine if the allegations in the Petition are supported by evidence.
- a. This process is called Adjudication.
- b. If the allegations in the Petition are found at trial not to be supported by the evidence, then the judge will dismiss the Petition.
- c. If you stipulate or the trial judge finds the allegations are supported by evidence, then the judge will rule that your child/ren are deprived and will continue DHS custody over them for the time being by making them wards of the court.
- d. If you have any criminal cases pending, you may want to consider entering a “No Contest Stipulation” that means you are not admitting to the bolded information in the Petition, but believe that, if a trial were held, the allegations would be found to be supported by the evidence.
- e. The Adjudication Hearing must be held with 90 days following the filing of the Deprived Petition with 20-days notice to the child and his or her parents, unless the Judge grants an extension not more than 180 days after the actual removal of the child
8. Following Adjudication, the case will be continued to allow DHS to create an “Individualized Treatment Plan” or “Individualized Treatment Plan” (“ISP”) for you. It sets forth the requirements that DHS wants you to complete to aid you in correcting the conditions that led to the removal of your child/ren so your child/ren can be returned her your custody.
- a. Your DHS Caseworker will likely reach out to you when devising your ISP so you can participate in its development
- b. Your DHS Caseworker should go over the final ISP with you before the next court appearance
- c. Your ISP should be individualized and specific to you and your family
- d. Your ISP should be furnished to the Court within 30 days after Adjudication
- e. It is very important to keep DHS, CASA & your attorney aware of any developments in your case and all the progress you have made on your ISP
- f. Be sure to contact all 3 any time you change addresses or phone numbers.
9. At the next court appearance, you can either: (1) approve and sign your ISP, or (2) request an evidentiary hearing (“Dispositional Hearing”) for the Judge to determine if the requirements set forth in your ISP should be adopted as written or if they can be changed or eliminated, if you and your attorney did not think that they related to the reasons why your child/ren were removed.
- a. The Dispositional Hearing can be held on the same day as the Adjudication Hearing
- b. The Dispositional Hearing must be held no later than 40 days after Adjudication, unless the Judge finds it is in the best interests of the child/ren to delay it
10. Once your ISP has been entered, your case will be continued for probably 90 days to see what, if any, progress you have made on completing the requirements in it. This next court appearance is call the “1st Post Disposition Review”.
- a. DHS and/or CASA will draft and circulate Reports of what happens in your case from court appearance to court appearance, noting your progress on your ISP
11. Thereafter, there will be additional court appearances (“Reviews”) to chart your progress until the time comes when DHS will ask the Judge to grant them authorization to begin unsupervised visitation with you and to begin trial reunification once appropriate
- a. The timely of this request by DHS will correspond with the amount of progress that you are making in your case
- b. Once unsupervised visitation begins, DHS will work with you to gradually increase the time period of the unsupervised visitation, until trial reunification is the next step
- c. Once in trial reunification, the time between court reviews will likely increase so that you don’t have to come to court as often
12. The final court appearance in a successful reunification case is when DHS requests that the case be dismissed and the other parties (ADA, Child’s Attorney, CASA) and the Judge agrees. On that day, custody of your child/ren will be returned to you
- a. It is not uncommon for trial reunification to last 6 months before a successful case is dismissed
- b. You may want to have a Final Permanency Order entered on that day as well
- i. It is a document that sets forth a summary of the case
- c. Plus, it can enter certain Orders of the court that would normally be entered in a Domestic case
- i. Such Orders could include: sole or joint custody, how much time a child/ren will spend with each parent, child support, the relocation statute language, and/or how to share the child/ren on any governmental income tax returns
- d. Once filed in the Juvenile case, a Final Permanency Order will also be filed in the county in which the child/ren live with the custodial parent and will become a final Order as to the issues that it contains
- e. A parent would then have to file a modification in a Domestic case to change any Orders entered in the Final Permanency Order and could only do so if the burden of proof for such a modification had been met
13. Should you fail to work your ISP in a timely manner or have multiple set backs during the process, you can expect to have either the ADA or the Child’s Attorney file an Application/Petition/Motion for Termination of Parental Rights, which would set forth the reasons that your parental rights should be terminated at that point
- a. Reasons can include:
- i. Child has been in DHS Custody for 15 of the most recent 22 months
- ii. Child has been judicially declared to be abandoned
- iii. Judge has determined that reasonable efforts to reunite are not required due to certain felony conviction(s) by you
- iv. You have made no measurable progress in correcting the conditions that caused your child/ren to be adjudicated deprived
- b. You have the right to a jury trial
- c. You also may choose to voluntarily relinquish your parental rights.
- i. Your attorney would draft the necessary pleading(s)
- ii. You would have to appear in court one final time to answer questions under oath
- a. Reasons can include:
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