Chapter 11 : Section 06

Hearings & Reviews for DCS

Policy

The Department shall comply with state statutes regarding hearings and reviews of DCS cases. All court proceedings relating to dependency, permanent guardianship and termination of parental rights are open to the public. The Department may request the court order a proceeding to be closed to the public.

The Attorney General's Office shall represent the Department in all contested hearings that affect DCS cases.

DCS Specialists shall attend all hearings affecting their cases and submit reports to the court within the required time frames. For termination of parental rights hearings tried before a jury, the DCS Specialist or DCS Program Supervisor must be present throughout the trial.

The DCS Specialist and any employee who will be providing testimony should contact the assigned Assistant Attorney General to discuss and prepare for testimony.

Procedures

Closing a DCS Proceeding

Consult with the Attorney General's Office to ensure cases receive timely and necessary legal services. Discuss with the assigned Assistant Attorney General (AAG) any reason a court proceeding should be closed to the public. In determining whether to recommend a proceeding be closed to the public, consider the following:

  • whether doing so is in the child's best interests;

  • whether an open proceeding would endanger the child's physical or emotional well-being or the safety of any other person;

  • the privacy rights of the child, the child's siblings, parents, guardians and caregivers and any other person whose privacy rights the court determines need protection;

  • whether all parties have agreed to allow the proceeding to be open; and

  • if the child is at least twelve years of age and a party to the proceeding, the child's wishes.

Hearings Affecting DCS Cases

Pre-Hearing Conference

This is a mandatory meeting of all parties to the dependency action and other interested persons as permitted by the court and is held immediately before the preliminary protective hearing. The purpose of the meeting is to attempt to reach an agreement about temporary custody and placement of the child, services to be provided to the child, parent or guardian, and visitation of the child. The availability of reasonable services to the parent or guardian shall be considered. The child's health and safety shall be a paramount concern.

Preliminary Protective Hearing

This hearing is held on each case, no less than five and not more than seven working days, excluding Saturdays, Sundays and state holidays, after the child is taken into custody and a dependency petition is filed. The court may grant one continuance not to exceed five days. The purpose of the hearing is to determine whether temporary custody of the child is clearly necessary to prevent abuse or neglect pending the hearing on the dependency petition. The court will receive any agreement reached at the pre-hearing conference. The parent or guardian is advised of their rights and will admit or deny the allegations in the petition. The court will determine if reasonable efforts were made to prevent or eliminate the need for removal of the child and if services are available that would eliminate the need for continued removal. The court will enter orders regarding the child's placement and visitation, if the child is not returned to the parent or guardian. The court will order the Department to make reasonable efforts to provide reunification services unless the court finds that the provision of such services is contrary to the best interest of the child. The court will inform the parent or guardian that the hearing may result in further proceedings to terminate parental rights. The court will give paramount consideration to the child's health and safety in making determinations.

Initial Dependency Hearing

The initial dependency hearing must be held within 21 days of the date on which the dependency petition was filed as to a parent or guardian not present at the preliminary protective hearing. An initial dependency hearing is not held as to a parent or guardian who denies the allegations at the preliminary protective hearing. At the initial hearing, the parent or guardian is advised of their rights and will admit or deny the allegations in the petition. The court will determine if reasonable efforts were made to prevent or eliminate the need for continued removal of the child and if services are available that would eliminate the need for continued removal. Unless the court finds reunification is contrary to the best interests of the child, the court will order the Department to make reasonable efforts to provide reunification services, if the child is not returned to the parent or guardian. The court may stay the proceeding and order In-Home Intervention.

Emergency Extension Hearing

This hearing is held only if a child must remain in a receiving foster home or shelter facility for a period of more than three weeks. The court must review the case at least once a week, beginning from the date of the first order extending the placement.

Status Conference or Pre-Trial Conference

This is an optional hearing that may occur after an initial dependency hearing and prior to a contested dependency adjudication hearing.

Settlement Conference or Mediation

The settlement conference or mediation is set when the parent or guardian denies the allegations in the petition and must occur prior to the pre-trial conference or dependency adjudication hearing. All parties to the contested action must participate in the settlement conference or mediation. The purpose of the settlement conference or mediation is to attempt to settle the issues of dependency and disposition in a non-adversarial manner and to avoid a trial. Any agreement reached is reduced to writing and submitted to the court for approval.

Contested Dependency Adjudication Hearing

This hearing must be completed within 90 days of service of the dependency petition on the parent or guardian. If critical circumstances exist, the court may extend this deadline by 30 days. At this hearing, the court determines whether the allegations of dependency are sustained by a preponderance of the evidence. If the allegations are sustained, the court may either proceed with a disposition hearing or set the disposition hearing within 30 days.

Disposition Hearing

This hearing must be held at the same time of or within 30 days of the dependency adjudication hearing. The purpose of this hearing is to obtain specific orders regarding the child's placement, services and appropriateness of the case plan. The court considers the goals of the placement, appropriateness of the case plan, services that have been offered to reunify the family and the efforts that have been or should be made to evaluate or plan for other permanent placement. If the court does not order reunification of the family, the court shall order a plan of adoption or other permanent plan that is in the child's best interest.

Report and Review Hearings

These hearings (also known as periodic review hearings) are held at least once every six months after the disposition hearing to review the dispositional orders of the court. They may be either contested or uncontested.

Return of the Child Hearing

This hearing is held after the preliminary protective hearing and as ordered by the court upon a motion by a parent or guardian for return of the child. This hearing may be ordered when all parties are not in agreement with the return of the child. The court will order the child be returned to the parent or guardian if the court finds that return of the child would not create a substantial risk of harm to the child's physical, mental or emotional health or safety. Failure of the parent or guardian to comply with the terms of the case plan is considered evidence that return of the child would create a substantial risk of harm to the child.

Permanency Hearing

This hearing is held:

  • within 30 days of the disposition hearing if reunification services were not ordered; or

  • within 12 months of the child's removal from the home; or

  • for children under three years of age, within six months of the child's removal from the home.

The court will determine the permanent plan for the child and order the plan to be accomplished within a specified period of time. If the court finds that termination of parental rights or permanent guardianship is in the child's best interest, the court will order a motion to terminate parental rights or for permanent guardianship be filed within ten days.

Initial Hearing on Motion for Permanent Guardianship

This hearing is held within 30 days after the permanency hearing. If the permanent guardianship is contested, the court shall set a date for the trial on the motion for permanent guardianship within 90 days after the permanency hearing. At this hearing, the court determines whether the prospective guardian is a fit and proper person to become a permanent guardian and whether the best interests of the child would be served by granting the permanent guardianship.

Review Hearing after Permanency Hearing

This hearing must be held at least once a year if the court determines the child should remain in out-of-home care more than 18 months from the date of the permanency hearing. This hearing provides an opportunity for the court to reconsider and modify the permanent plan for the child. The court may order another permanent plan for the child or reaffirm the prior plan.

Foster Care Review Board Hearings

These hearings are held within six months of out-of-home placement and at least once every six months thereafter to review the case of every child who is the subject of a dependency action and remains in out-of-home care at least six months.

Initial Hearing on Motion to Terminate Parental Rights

This hearing applies to children entering out-of-home care on or after July 1, 1998. The hearing is held within 30 days of the permanency hearing when the court orders the filing of the motion to terminate parental rights. The parent whose rights are sought to be terminated may request this hearing be tried to a jury. If the parent contests the motion, the court must set a date for trial within 90 days of the permanency hearing. At this hearing, the court determines whether there are sufficient grounds to terminate the parent-child relationship. It is also known as a severance hearing.

Hearing on a Petition to Adopt

At this hearing, the court determines whether to grant the adoptive parent(s)' petition to adopt a child.

Removal from a Certified Adoptive Home Hearing

This hearing is necessary to remove a child who is placed in a certified adoptive home prior to finalization of the adoption.

Expedited Adoption Hearing

This hearing is held when the court determines, based on a sworn affidavit filed with the court, the hearing is in the best interests of the child and the child is diagnosed as suffering from a debilitating, progressive or fatal disease or the prospective adoptive parent is diagnosed as terminally ill, or the court finds other compelling reasons relating to the special needs and welfare of the child.

Inpatient Psychiatric Acute Care Services Hearing

This hearing is required within 72 hours of filing a motion for inpatient psychiatric acute care services. This hearing provides the court the opportunity to review the results and recommendations of an inpatient or outpatient assessment completed by a psychiatrist, psychologist, or physician and approve or deny the admission of the child for inpatient psychiatric acute care services.

Residential Treatment Services Hearing

This hearing is held only when all parties to the motion for residential treatment services are not in agreement with the motion. The court will consider the written psychological, psychiatric or medical assessment recommending residential treatment and the statement from the medical or clinical director of the residential treatment facility or director's designee that the facility's services are appropriate to meet the child's needs. The court, on a finding of good cause, may waive the written assessment. The court will order residential treatment services if the court finds that residential treatment services are required to address the child's behavioral, psychological, social or mental health needs and available alternatives were considered, but residential treatment services are the least restrictive available alternative.

Residential Treatment Services Review Hearing

This hearing is only held if ordered by the court due to a request by the child, or by another party or the court's own motions. In all other instances, the court conducts a paper review of the child's continuing need for residential treatment services. A paper review or review hearing is required at least every 60 days after the date of the treatment order.

Inpatient Psychiatric Acute Care Services Review Hearing

This hearing is only held if ordered by the court due to a request by the child, or by another party with good cause shown. In all other instances, the court conducts a paper review of the child’s continuing need for inpatient psychiatric acute care services. A paper review or review hearing is required at least every sixty days after the date of the treatment order.

In addition to the above, the court may order special hearings or reviews to address specific case-related issues.

Consult with the DCS Program Supervisor if there are concerns about the assigned DCS Specialist attending a hearing. Notify the Attorney General's Office of any anticipated problems or concerns.

Documentation

Document all juvenile court hearings in the Notes Tab designated as Court Hearing type.

Document special or unusual court orders in the Legal Tab.

Document contacts with the Attorney General’s Office in the Notes Tab. Title the Note as AG contact and designate as AG Contact type.

File court minute entries in the hard copy case record.

Effective Date: February 1, 2021
Revision History: November 30, 2012, September 13, 2013, February 4, 2015, July 7, 2018, August 6, 2016, June 24, 2019