The judges of the Child Protection Division seek to protect the children in the juvenile court.
The court attempts to keep children with their families and help to make the families stronger. Sometimes, in order to ensure a child's health, safety and well-being the court must take a child from the parents.
When the court takes a child from the parent(s), the court must make sure someone has legal custody of the child. The child may be placed with a relative or in foster care so that the child can get the care and discipline they need to be safe and protected.
When the court takes a child from the parent(s) the court and the Office of Community Services will work with the family to improve the conditions in the home so that legal custody can be returned to the parents and the child can move back home.
The Child Protection Division of the Orleans Parish Juvenile Court joins the community in providing safety, permanency and well-being for children and preserving families when in the child's best interest while insuring the dignity and due process rights of all.
There is a metal detector at the entrance. There is also a police officer in each courtroom. Concerns about safety should be addressed with the police officer.
Who to call if your child is taken away
If your child was taken away by the police or the social worker because your child is not safe, call: Juvenile Bureau 826-1265 Office of Community Services 680-9000.
Who participates in a Child Protection Division Case
In the Child Protection Division, you will find:
- Judge - decides what care, treatment and guidance the child will get.
- Minute clerk
- Court reporter - writes down word-for-word what is said in court.
- Case manager
Finding a lawyer
If you are indigent (you don't have much money), you can get a free lawyer. The judge will decide if you can have a free lawyer. Usually, the Orleans Parish Indigent Defense Program represents parents. There are other lawyers who may sometimes represent parents. You can also hire a lawyer. Who are the other lawyers in the Child Protection Division?
The Bureau of General Counsel represents the Office of Community Services after disposition, for all reviews and in termination of parental rights cases.
The District Attorney's Office represents the state from the beginning of the case through disposition.
Where to file papers
You can file your papers at the clerk's office. All cases are confidential. The clerk's office cannot give out information over the phone. If you want to look at court files, go to the clerk's office at 1100-B Milton Street, New Orleans, Louisiana 70122. The clerk's office is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. daily except on holidays and weekends. The telephone number is 658-9500. Call the clerk's office if you need Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accommodations.
Dependent children in court
Children are represented by private lawyers appointed by the court or lawyers from the Legal Aid Bureau, Loyola Law Clinic, The Pro Bono Project or the Tulane Law Clinic.
The Louisiana's Children's Code provides in Article 607 that every child in a neglect and abuse case must be represented by an attorney.
This code talks about when a parent or caretaker abuses or neglects a child. A neighbor, friend or relative may report abuse. There are also some people who are required by law (mandatory reporters) to report if they suspect abuse. This can be a therapist, a school official, or childcare provider.
The police and social workers may investigate a report of abuse. The District Attorney's office decides if a family will have to go to court. If the District Attorney's office files a petition, a lawyer will be appointed to represent the child and the child will be a party to the court case.
The child's lawyer is appointed to represent the best interest of the child and not want the child wants. The lawyer makes sure that the children they represent are:
- Living in appropriate places
- Are in the right schools
- Are getting the services they need for the social worker, and
- Are visiting with their parents and siblings
Parties in a Dependency Hearing
A party is someone who has the right to:
- Go to court
- Be heard, and
- Have a lawyer at the hearing
In a dependency case, a party can be:
- The mother
- The father
- The child
- The social worker
- A legal guardian or caretaker for the child
Common legal problems with fathers
The court has to know who a child's legal father is with a blood test. If the parents were married when the child was born, the Court assumes that that husband is the father. If the parents weren't married, the Court might have to determine who the father is. This is called "establishing paternity."
The Court can learn who the father is with a blood test. Or; there can be a paternity hearing. At the paternity hearing, the Court asks the parents about their relationship. If the parents went to Civil Court or asked for child support, they might have already said who the father is.
The Court will ask who the father of the child is.
There are different types of fathers: Legal Father - The law decides that this man is the father of a child. This can be because the father was married to the mother, signed an acknowledgment of paternity or because a judge ruled that he was the father.
Alleged Father - This is a man who is not the legal father of the child. However, someone says that he is the father.
Biological Father - This is the man whose sperm made the child.
If the court decides that a man is the legal father of a child they will tell the Office of Child Support, that way child support can be established and collected Who else can be part of a Dependency Case?
Relatives In general, relatives can go to Dependency hearings. The court needs to know the names, addresses and other information about all the relatives. The child can be sent to live with them, or they can support the child and other family members. If a child cannot stay with the parents, the Court would rather send them to live with relatives.
Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA)
A CASA is appointed to be the voice of the child. The CASA will visit the child regularly and help to say what's best for the child. A CASA can go to the hearing and talk to the judge. They can also look at all the child's records as well as court files. Every CASA is recruited, screened, trained and supervised.
To learn more about CASA, go to their website.
You can also contact CASA via phone at 522-1962.
Or, email them at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Legal Hearings in Dependency Court
A hearing is when you go to Court. This section talks about the hearings in the Child Protection Division.
The first hearing
The first hearing is called the Continued Custody hearing. At this hearing the court:
- Gives the parents a notice about what is going on (the "proceedings").
- Tells the parents what can happen in a dependency case.
- The court confirms who the parents of the child are, if possible. This is called Paternity.
- Determine if there was probable cause for the issuance of the hold order.
- Decides whether the child can remain safely with the parents or kept in foster care prior to trial.
- Decides whether the agency has made reasonable efforts to avoid placement of the child outside of the home.
- Decides what services, if any, will allow the child to remain safely at home.
- Determines whether responsible relatives or other responsible adults are available for possible placement.
- Determines whether the placement proposed by the agency is the least disruptive and most family-like setting that meets the needs of the child.
- Determines whether CASA will be assigned to monitor the child's continued well-being and the implementation of services.
- Determines if restraining orders or orders expelling an allegedly abusive parent from the home are appropriate.
- Determines whether orders are needed for examination, evaluations, or immediate services.
- Determine the terms and conditions of visitation.
- Inquires about potential sources of financial support for the child from the parents.
- Reviews notice to missing parties and relatives.
- Provides notice for the next hearing.
What happens at the Answer hearing?
What happens at the Adjudication hearing?
The court determines if what the petition says is true. The Court has 3 ways to do this:
- The parents or guardians admit the petition is true.
- The parents or guardians don't admit or deny the petition but stipulate that the child is in need of care.
- The parents or guardian's dispute or contest the petition. Both sides give the court evidence at the hearing. Then, the Court finds the petition to be true or not.
Before the judge accepts an admission or submission, the Court has to be sure the parents want to give up (waive) their right to a trial. This means they gave up the right to see, hear and question witnesses, bring their own witnesses, testify or stay silent.
What happens at the disposition hearing?
If the Court decides the petition is true, it will say what should happen with the child. The judge can:
- Dismiss the case.
- Let the child live with a parent under the supervision of the Office of Community Services. This means that the social worker and the Court supervises the child.
- Take the child away from the parents and not offer family reunification services to get their child back. There will be a hearing in ________ to decide where the child will live permanently.
The Court will not let the parents try reunification services if:
- The child or a brother or a sister has been seriously abused or killed.
- The parent had another child taken by the court.
- The parents tried family reunification services and they were cancelled.
- The parents have serious drug problems that aren't being treated.
There are other reasons the Court can skip family reunification services and order a permanent plan for the child.
6-month review hearing
This hearing lets the court see:
- How the child is doing, and
- How the parents are doing with the services the Court ordered.
If a child lives with a parent, the court can:
- Dismiss the case, or
- Keep supervising the child with family services.
If the child doesn't live at home, the court can:
- Give the child back to a parent. The family will stay with family services, or
- Keep the child out of the house and order family reunification services.
At this hearing the court decides if the child will go back to the parents. If not, the Court will cancel the services so the child can get a permanent plan. The court will set a hearing to decide the permanent plan for the child.
The court can let the family reunification services go on for another 6 months if there is a good chance that the child will then go back to live with his parents.
Permanency planning hearing
At this hearing, the court decides if the child will go back to the parents. If not, the judge will cancel family reunification services. The court will decide a permanent plan for the child. The plans can be:
- End the parent's rights so the child can be adopted,
- Name a legal guardian for the child, or
- Put the child with a relative, foster parent or in a group home for a long time.
The most permanent plan for the child is adoption.
The second choice is legal guardianship. The last choice permanent plan is alternative permanent living arrangement. This is the least likely to give the child a permanent home.
The court can have other hearings to:
- Check up on the child,
- To see how the social worker is working with the family, or
- To see how the parents are doing with their case plan.
How cases end
There are different ways for a dependency case to end:
- Case is dismissed
- Child reaches age of majority
If the child lives with a parent and the court does not need to supervise the child any more, it can dismiss the case. This will end the Court's supervision of the case.
Adoption hearings are in the Juvenile Court. They are children whose parent's lost or surrendered their rights and who live in adoptive homes. Adoptions of children whose case has been in the Child Protection Division are also heard in the Child Protection Division.
You can appeal a judge's decision if you fought (or "contested") the petition.
Talk to your lawyer about how to file an appeal.