Juvenile dependency is a relatively new area of law that aims to give dysfunctional families the best chance of becoming functional again. It’s also about ensuring that children assessed to be vulnerable are given adequate protection from harmful situations.
While it can be hard to see when you’re affected by a negative assessment from Child Protective Services, these social workers are not generally trying to cause difficulties for families, and they do usually have the best of intentions. However, like anyone else, they are capable of making mistakes. There are also some twisted individuals who deliberately make false reports to CPS in order to cause disruption and trouble for families that don’t really have a problem.
According to Carlsbad juvenile dependency attorneys Fischer & Van Thiel, many families that find themselves heading to Juvenile Dependency Court could have avoided this fate if they sought legal help the moment they became aware that they were being investigated by CPS. Having a lawyer does not make you seem more guilty or that you have something to hide. In fact it accomplishes three things, all of which are beneficial to you:
- They may be able to explain your circumstances in a way that CPS workers can more easily understand and accept than if you try to explain things yourself. Keep in mind that you are likely to be emotional and stressed when CPS workers talk with you, so your responses could potentially not be the most appropriate responses that you could give. A lawyer is somebody who can help by taking the emotional component out of the dialog.
- They can help to ensure that anything you say isn’t likely to be taken out of context or misunderstood by the CPS workers.
- They can help to ensure that the CPS workers carry out their duties in a lawful and appropriate way, and that CPS does not overstep any legal boundaries.
- They help to show that you are aware of the gravity of the situation and that you’re taking the matter seriously. Families that are willing to invest in staying together are probably more likely to be sincerely loving families that don’t fit the profile of typical abusive or neglectful families.
There are, however, limits to what a lawyer can do at this stage. For example:
- They can’t prevent CPS or the police from removing children from the household if an assessment is made that they are at risk.
- They can’t testify as to the veracity of what you have told them, nor can they force CPS to accept your version of the story. The CPS workers are individuals and will form their own opinions based on what they hear and see from all parties involved, and will take action based on that.
In the majority of cases, lawyers do help to prevent children being unnecessarily removed from the household. When it’s not possible to do that, the matter will go to court, and then a lawyer is even more essential. At Juvenile Dependency hearings, there is no jury. The judge alone decides the outcome based on the evidence presented to him or her. A lawyer will help to present your evidence in the best way to give you a positive outcome, and will ensure that the evidence presented against you is not unfairly disadvantaging you. Families that retain lawyers are far more likely to have cases awarded in their favor than families that do not.