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DFS/CD/ Juvenile Court
Child Abuse and Neglect:
Unfortunately because of alleged abuse and neglect sometimes families become involved with Children’s Division. Children’s Division, which is the division of the Missouri Department of Social Services which used to be known as Division of Family Services (DFS), is charged with protecting children from abuse and neglect. Children’s Division works cooperatively with the juvenile court in cases of abuse and neglect. The Children’s Division conducts investigations and the juvenile court is responsible for filing the abuse and neglect actions. The actions are brought under Revised Statutes of Missouri Chapters 210 and 211.
If you are a parent who has become involved with the juvenile court due to allegations of abuse and neglect it is important to remember that although it may feel like the Children’s Division social worker is your enemy, they are there to facilitate reunification with the parent if possible. You should do two things immediately: request services and retain an attorney to review the sufficiency of the evidence against you. If the petition alleging abuse or neglect is sustained, reunification with the parent(s) will almost always be the first plan the court orders be pursued. This does not mean you will be immediately reunified with your child it means there will be a plan of services put in place designed to fix the problems in the family that led to the removal of the child. In short, the social work is charged with identifying the barriers to reunification and putting enough services in place for the parents to remove those barriers. The parents are charged with successfully completing the services put in place by the social worker.
Termination of parental rights will be discussed from the beginning of your case. DO NOT PANIC. It is a federal law (called ASFA) that requires the social worker to discuss this with you. You have plenty of time to participate in the services designed to remove the barriers to reunification. In the meantime, you should also be having regular contact with your child, and once you have made sufficient progress in the services, your child may be placed in your home on a “trial home visit.”
If the petition in your case is sustained, you can expect to be involved with the Children’s Division and the juvenile court for up to 2 years.
Juvenile delinquency is participation in illegal activity by an individual who falls under a statutory age limit. In Missouri, that statutory age limit is 17 years in other words, any youth under the age of 17 years. At 17 years of age, Missouri prosecutes criminal activity in the adult court.
According to the Missouri statutes, the purpose of the juvenile delinquency statute is to facilitate the care, protection and discipline of children who come within the jurisdiction of the juvenile court. The laws are liberally construed to that end so that each child coming within the jurisdiction of the juvenile court shall receive such care, guidance and control as will conduce to the child's welfare and the best interests of the state, and that when such child is removed from the control of his parents the court shall secure for him care as nearly as possible equivalent to that which should have been given him by them. The child welfare policy of Missouri is what is in the best interests of the child.
There are two types of offenses that can be committed by a youth:
Status offenses are those offenses that are illegal only because the child is underage.
Delinquency offenses are those that would be a crime if the child was not underage.
In Missouri we have a separate system to deal with juvenile delinquency and child abuse and neglect. This is often referred to as Juvenile Court. The records maintained in Juvenile Court are confidential except is certain circumstances.
The process of a juvenile delinquency case can be loosely thought of as follows:
Referral to the juvenile office
Intake process (first meeting with the juvenile officer)
This is the most important step in the process. You should hire an attorney for your child before you go to this meeting. This is the step where the juvenile officer will take the statement of the juvenile and determine whether to proceed informally, formally, or to seek certification of the child to stand trial as an adult. It is vital to have an attorney before your child’s first meeting with the juvenile officer for two reasons: 1. Protection of your child’s constitutional rights; 2. Ensure the least amount of intervention into your child’s life and your family’s life by the juvenile office through the development of a plan of treatment for your child prior to the meeting.
If the juvenile office pursues a formal complaint against the child, this initial meeting will be followed by at least two court appearances: adjudication (which is the juvenile equivalent of a trial), and disposition (which is the juvenile equivalent of sentencing).
If the child is in detention, there will be a Detention Hearing before the adjudication and disposition.
To make an appointment, please call me at 816-256-5440.
I am available to help you in the following Missouri counties: Jackson, Clay, Platte, Cass , Buchanan, Andrew, Davies, Caldwell, DeKalb, Clinton, Atchison, Holt, and Nodaway.
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