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Introduction to Child Welfare Law in Washington

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1 Introduction to Child Welfare Law in Washington
Tim Jaasko-Fisher, Director Court Improvement Training Academy University of Washington School of Law Children and Youth Advocacy Clinic

2 Systems of Law State System Federal System

3 Sources of State Law Washington State Constitution Executive Branch
Legislative Branch Judicial Branch Executive Orders Regulations (WAC) - Statutes (RCW) - Court Opinions

4 THE SUPREME COURT 9 Justices with Six-year staggered terms
- All juvenile matters are reviewed at the court’s discretion To get reviewed, case must have constitutional issues, conflict in appellate law, or be of significant public importance. COURT OF APPEALS Judges with Six-year staggered terms Division I (Seattle); Division II (Tacoma); Division III (Spokane) Reviews many dependency cases as a matter of right Some types of orders are reviewed on a discretionary basis - Review is done “on the record” SUPERIOR COURT Judges with Four-year terms; Commissioners by Appointment One in most every county (two in King) - Court of General Jurisdiction Trial Court - Juvenile Court Domestic Relations COURTS OF LIMITED JURISDICTION Judges with Four-year terms District and Municipal courts DV Protection Orders Misdemeanor Criminal Cases

5 All abuse and neglect cases start with a referral.
- Community Members Mandatory Reporters Physicians Law Enforcement Service Providers Social Workers

6 Most referrals do not become dependency cases.
Screened Out - - Information Only - - Alternative Response Systems - - Voluntary Services / Placement -

7 A dependency proceeding is a process which provides a procedural mechanism to balance the parent’s fundamental constitutional rights with the state’s interest in protecting children believed to be abused or neglected. If you understand the process, you will be better able to serve children and families, and can use the process to help achieve safe, permanent homes for kids in a timely manner.

8 The Dependency Petition
Anyone may file a petition The petition must address each parent, guardian, or custodian The petition must address Indian status The petition must allege that a child meets the legal definition of “dependent child”.

9 An Indian child is someone under 18 years of age who:
Is a member of a tribe OR Whose parents are tribal members if the child is eligible for membership

10 A dependent child is one who:
(a) Has been abandoned (b) has been abused or neglected (c) has no capable parent or guardian

11 Abandonment means: an expressed intent by statement or conduct to forgo for an extended periods of time parental rights or responsibilities despite an ability to exercise such rights.

12 Abuse and neglect is an injury, sexual abuse, negligent treatment, or mal treatment by any person under circumstances which indicate that the child’s health, welfare, or safety is harmed.

13 An incapable parent is one who:
Is unable to adequately caring for the child, such that the child is in circumstances which constitute a danger of substantial damage to the child's psychological or physical development.

14 Children May Be Taken Into Custody By
court order (pick up order) law enforcement protective custody (PC) Agreement of the parent (VPA)

15 To issue a pick up order, a court must find:
A dependency petition and sworn statement supporting the pick up order has been filed There are reasonable grounds to believe the child’s health, safety, or welfare will be seriously endangered if not taken into custody There are reasonable grounds to believe the child is dependent

16 Law Enforcement may take a child into protective custody if
There is probable cause to believe that the child is abused or neglected AND The child would be injured OR The child could not be taken into custody if it were necessary to first obtain a court order

17 Shelter Care Hearing Must occur within 72 hours of placement
Court will appoint parents attorney Court will appoint GAL / CASA Court may set case conference

18 Shelter Care Issues Were reasonable efforts made to notify parents
Parents may agree to participate in services Placement of the child

19 Court may order child placed out of home if it finds:
Services have been offered to prevent or eliminate need for removal No parent or guardian to care for child Release of the child to the parent or guardian presents a serious threat of substantial harm to the child

20 If a court orders placement, it must
Place with an appropriate relative if available Place with another suitable person if no relative is available Review its order within 30 days

21 Case Conferences Held at least 30 days prior to fact finding
DSHS must develop a written service plan Information exchanged at case conferences may not be used at fact finding

22 Fact Finding Hearings Hearing must be held within 75 days of petition being filed Only issue is whether child meets statutory definition of “dependent child” by a preponderance of the evidence Rules of evidence apply Court must enter written findings

23 Agreed dependency orders are subject to approval of the court, and the court must find that the parent knowingly and voluntarily entered into the agreement and understands the consequences of the agreement.

24 Disposition May be delayed up to 14 days after fact finding for good cause Court will enter orders regarding: Placement Visits Services Permanent Plan

25 Placement Court may order a disposition other than removal from the home If Court orders child placed out of home, child must be placed with: a) relative willing and able to care for the child whom the child has a relationship and is comfortable b) licensed care c) other suitable person

26 To order out of home placement, a court must find:
Reasonable efforts have been made to prevent removal from the home AND There is no parent willing or available to care for the child OR the court finds by clear, cogent, and convincing evidence that a manifest danger exists that the child will suffer serious abuse or neglect if not removed

27 Visits: Visitation with parents and siblings is a right. There is a presumption that visitation is in the child’s best interest. Visits may not be conditioned upon compliance with services / cooperation with DSHS

28 Services: Order must set out clear requirements and timeline for completion. DSHS must provide all services reasonably available within the agency or the community, or that the department has existing contracts to purchase.

29 Permanent plans include:
Return home Adoption Guardianship Permanent legal custody Long term relative or foster care Responsible living skills program Independent living / Emancipation

30 Modification of orders requires the filing of a motion which makes a threshold showing of a change in circumstances. OR If you want the judge to change the rules in the case, you have to show that something in the case is different since the last time the judge set out the rules.

31 Review Hearings Held every 6 months from placement episode or date dependency is established whichever is sooner. 1st review must be within 90 days of dispo.

32 What does a court consider at a review hearing?
Have reasonable services been offered to facilitate reunification? Is the child placed in the least restrictive setting with relatives? Is there a continuing need for placement? Have all parties complied with the case plan? Has progress been made toward correcting parental deficiencies? Have parents visited and if not, why? Are additional services necessary? When will the perm. plan be achieved?

33 Permanency Planning Hearings
Held every 9-12 months from date of placement Court will consider the same matters as for a review and will review the permanent plan

34 Permanent plans Return home Adoption Guardianship
Permanent legal custody Long term relative or foster care Responsible living skills program Emancipation

35 Return Home Court must find parent is compliant with case plan, court orders, and treatment to order a child returned home. Child must be returned home under court supervision for 6 months prior to dismissal of the case.

36 Termination of Parental Rights / Adoption
Prior to adoption all parents rights must be terminated or relinquished. A termination petition starts a separate but related action from the dependency.

37 In a termination case, the state must prove by clear, cogent, and convincing evidence that:
The child is dependent A disposition plan has been entered The child has been removed from the parent’s custody pursuant to an order of dependency for 6 months

38 Termination (cont) All services ordered and all necessary services reasonably available have been offered or provided Little likelihood that parent will remedy parental deficiencies in the near future Continuation of parent-child relationship diminishes child’s prospects for early integration into a permanent and stable home

39 Termination (cont) Court must find all 6 factors by clear, cogent, and convincing evidence Court must also find by a preponderance of the evidence that termination of parental rights is in the child’s best interest.

40 Dependency Guardianship
Court must make same findings as in Termination of parental rights by a preponderance of the evidence Court must find that guardianship, rather than termination of parental rights or continued efforts to reunify is in the child’s best interest

41 Permanent Legal Custody
This is a separate action State is not a party to the action Parties must hire their own lawyer No right to counsel by parent Dependency dismissed once custody order is entered Limited financial support to family

42 Other Plans Long term foster / relative care Responsible living skills

43 Appeals 1st level is to court of appeals (6-9 months)
May ask for Supreme Court review (2 -12 months)


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