JUVENILE COURT: CONTEXT AND OVERVIEW Janet Mason March 8, 2006 Institute of Government UNC at Chapel Hill.
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JUVENILE COURT: CONTEXT AND OVERVIEW Janet Mason March 8, 2006 Institute of Government UNC at Chapel Hill
How Does State Respond to Child Maltreatment? Criminal Justice System Focus on offender No reporting requirement Law enforcement response Criminal court Outcome – conviction & punishment Child Welfare System Focus on child Mandatory reporting County social services response Civil (juvenile) court Outcome – adjudication & protection
When and how may the state intervene in families for the purpose of child protection? The Juvenile Code is North Carolina’s primary answer to that question. Harm Risk of harm Lack of minimally adequate care
Definitions in Juvenile Code Set Limits of State Intervention “Juvenile” “Abused Juvenile” “Neglected Juvenile” “Dependent Juvenile” “Caretaker” “Custodian”
Summary Definition Children who are: harmed or at risk of harm because of the: –action, –inaction, or –incapability of a: –parent, –person whose role is similar to parent’s, or –day care provider or staff.
The goal in every case is for the child to have a safe, permanent home within a reasonable period of time.
Priorities for doing that: keep the child at home and safe remove child from his home temporarily and return home quickly, when it is safe facilitate the child’s adoption appoint a relative or other suitable person as child’s guardian place child in legal custody of a relative or other suitable person
Sources of Child Welfare Law and Policy North Carolina Juvenile Code, G.S. Ch. 7B State administrative rules Policy manuals developed by state Division of Social Services Appellate court decisions …………………………………………………….. Federal funding criteria in federal statutes and regulations
North Carolina Statutes N.C. Juvenile Code, G.S. Ch. 7B G.S. Ch. 48 – Adoptions G.S. Ch. 50A – Custody Jurisdiction G.S. Ch. 108A – Social Services On the Internet: http://www.ncleg.nethttp://www.ncleg.net
Other Authority: Rules: N.C. Admin. Code, Title 10A, Ch. 70 –On the Internet: http://ncrules.state.nc.ushttp://ncrules.state.nc.us State DSS Policy Manuals –On the Internet: http://126.96.36.199/olm/manuals/dss/ http://188.8.131.52/olm/manuals/dss/
Courts District Court [includes juvenile] [Superior Court not involved in juvenile] Court of Appeals Supreme Court
Published Court Opinions Court of Appeals In re L.K., 105 N.C. App. 651, 414 S.E.2d 396 (1992). Supreme Court In re P.C., 337 N.C. 56, 437 S.E.2d 822 (1994).
What does child welfare intervention look like? What is the role of social services?
Mandatory Reporting Law Any person who has cause to suspect that a child is abused, neglected, or dependent must make a report to the county DSS.
The County DSS Screens the Report By Asking: “If the information in the report is true, is the child an abused, neglected, or dependent juvenile, within the Juvenile Code definitions?”
If the report is screened out, the person who made the report must be notified in writing and may ask for an agency review of the decision.
If the report is accepted, DSS must make a prompt, thorough assessment Abuse or serious neglect → investigative assessment Other neglect or dependency → family assessment
The person who made the report 1. must be notified in writing of the result of the assessment and 2. can seek review by the district attorney if DSS does not file a juvenile petition.
Confidential Central Registry collects reporting data State DHHS also must maintain “Responsible Individuals List” –Very limited access to information on list –Person may seek expungement of name from list –May involve district court hearing on issue of expungement
Only about 1/3 of assessments lead to substantiation or finding of “in need of services” Of those, only small number go to court In most cases, DSS works with family to address problems and ensure child’s safety See Data for Your County at: http://www.dhhs.state.nc.us/dss/stats/cr.htm
When a Case Goes to Juvenile Court Decision to file a petition is made by DSS (or prosecutor if DSS decision overruled). Petition alleging facts about abuse, neglect, or dependency is filed with clerk or magistrate. Petition starts a civil proceeding in juvenile (district) court. Petition must be verified. Petition must be filed before a custody order can be issued.
1.Petition and summons are served on parent, guardian, custodian, or caretaker. 2.Indigent parent has right to court-appointed counsel. 3.Guardian ad litem and attorney advocate are appointed to represent child. 4.DSS may seek nonsecure custody order. When a Case Goes to Juvenile Court:
Judge has authority to: order steps to identify and locate absent parent or establish paternity order parents to receive treatment; take specific steps to correct problems; pay child support change custody of the child appoint guardian for child
Termination of Parental Rights Ends parent’s legal rights and makes child eligible for adoption May begin by motion or petition Requires notice or summons Must allege facts to support a statutory ground Must have proper service
Petition or Motion Both must contain information set out in G.S. 7B-1104 Both (probably) should have information or affidavit required by G.S. 50A-209 They must be served on (almost) the same people Same time to respond
PETITION MOTION Requires summons New file and file number (?) New appointment of counsel and GAL Respondent files Answer Requires notice Part of existing juvenile case Counsel and GAL continue unless court orders otherwise Respondent files Response
A word about court orders: Place the action in time and context Identify issue before the court Identify key participants Jurisdiction: –Subject Matter –Personal Findings of fact Conclusions of law Order
A word about appeals: What is “entry” of an order? Which orders can be appealed? When? What are the steps in an appeal? Where are the rules?