Once the child is taken away from the home, there will be a shelter hearing held within 24 hours. The shelter hearing is to establish whether DCF had probable cause to shelter the child and if so, who the child should be sheltered with. If no relatives or friends are available to care for the child, then the child may have to go to foster care. A Shelter Order will be put in place. You must follow the order. At the shelter hearing the judge may also determine visitation for the parents.
By the time you get to the arraignment a DCF attorney should be assigned to your case and a Petition for Dependency should have been filed. At the arraignment hearing the court will determine whether you admit, deny, or consent to the allegations in the Petition for Dependency. If you deny the allegations then the case will proceed to adjudicatory hearing and a trial will take place and evidence will be presented by both sides. If you consent or admit the allegations a disposition hearing will take place. At the arraignment you will have the opportunity to have a lawyer appointed to you if found indigent. A Guardian Ad Litem may also be appointed to represent the interests of the child.
If you enter an admission or if after entering a denial you come to an agreement with DCF (through mediation or otherwise) then you will most likely enter into a case plan with a goal of reunification with your child. You will be given one year to complete the tasks given to you on your case plan. During this time DCF will have supervision over your case and your child. They will assign a caseworker who will visit with your child at least once a month. The caseworker will also submit progress notes to the court regarding your case. Once you have completed the tasks on your case plan successfully within the one year period, you will have the right to regain custody of your child (get reunified), if no other unforeseen circumstances arise. Once the goal of reunification is met then the case will be closed by DCF.
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