When a child is removed from his or her parental home a judge or magistrate must sign an order allowing it. A child protective service worker usually requests this order, although a police officer may also request it. Once the removal has been approved, the child can be placed temporarily in foster care, a group home, or juvenile facility. That order is temporary, however, and after it is signed, an adjudication hearing must take place within 72 hours. Typically, a foster care worker has not yet been assigned to the case. Therefore, the child protective service worker involved in the removal will attend this adjudication hearing.
If the child protective service worker has already been working with this family trying to prevent removal, then the adjudication hearing can probably proceed as scheduled. This is because the worker will already have a case file, history, and evidence to present to the court to substantiate the removal. If the court determines that sufficient evidence exists for removal, then the child will be made a temporary ward of the court. The court will order the child placed in licensed foster care under the supervision of a licensed agency. The supervising agency may also place with an appropriate relative care provider if one is made known at this time.
It is more typical, however, for the adjudication hearing to be adjourned at this time pending the collection of additional evidence. This is because the child protective service worker will need time to collect information about the removal. The worker may need to interview school employees such as teachers or bus drivers. The worker will need copies of current police reports and may check for previous complaints. If drugs were found the worker may need lab test results confirming they were indeed illegal substances. Sometimes the worker will have child undergo medical tests to support allegations and those results may also be needed at this time. Therefore, the adjudication hearing is usually rescheduled for about two weeks later.
Occasionally, the child protective service worker will request immediate termination of parental rights at an adjudication hearing. This doesn’t happen very often but it is possible. If the child suffered such severe physical abuse, that reunification will not be considered is one reason. Another reason the worker may request immediate termination is if the child had previously been in foster care for an extended period and returned home to the parents. However, that is up to the individual worker and doesn’t always happen.
Photo Credit Julia Fuller 2007