1. Within 72 hours of a complaint being filed a 72-hour hearing (probable cause hearing, detentional hearing) is heard.
At that hearing, the court decides if a child is in danger, and where a child should stay until the adjudicatory hearing. It is important to note that this hearing is considered informal and as such the standard rules of evidence do not apply. Most importantly, hearsay is admissible at this hearing. After the 72-hour hearing, a deprivation petition must be filed or the complaint will be dismissed. If the child is placed in state custody, a petition must be filed within 5 days. If the child is not placed in state custody, a petition must be filed within 30 days.
Note: Saturdays, Sundays and legal holidays do not count in the initial 72 hours.
2. Within 5 or 30 days a petition is filed which alleges the facts as to the deprivation.
If the child is in state custody, the court will hold on Adjudicatory Hearing within 10 days of the filing date. If the child is not in state custody, the court will hold on Adjudicatory Hearing within 60 days of the filing date.
3. Within 10 or 60 days an Adjudicatory Hearing is held.
The Adjudicatory hearing is essentially the same as a trial. At that hearing, the judge listens to testimony and other evidence, decides the facts of the case and makes a ruling about whether of not the child is deprived. If the judge finds the child is not deprived the case will be dismissed and the child will be returned immediately to the parent. If the judge finds that a child is deprived, a Disposition Hearing will be held either immediately or within a reasonable period of time.
4. If deprivation is found, a Disposition Hearing is held.
At that hearing, the Court determines what kind of placement is in the best interests of the child. The preferred placement is with a fit and willing relative. If there is no relative placement available, DFACS may take custody. If the court orders that DFACS shall have custody, that order is valid for 1 year starting from either the day of the first judicial finding of abuse or the day the child was removed from the home. Within 30 days the parents should receive a caseplan. The purpose of caseplan is to provide a roadmap of the things that the parents must do to alleviate the deprivation and have the child returned.
5. Review Hearings-(Every 30-90 Days)
Judicial Review Hearings are before the judge to review the progress in the case plan and determine how to proceed with the case. Citizen Review Panels occur with a group of trained community members who review the progress on the case plan and make recommendations to the judge about how the case should continue.
The parents should attend all review hearings, though it is common for the attorney not to attend the Citizen Review Panels.
6. Permanency Hearing-(1 year after child is taken from home, or if DFACS recommends non-reunification)
The final, permanent plan for the child will be determined by the Court. Permanency could include returning the child to the parents, termination of parental rights and possible adoption, extension of DFACS custody for and additional year or granting custody to a relative until the child is 18.
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