A dependency case is a series of hearings, starting with a “Dispositional Hearing”. However, before a Dispositional Hearing, the Social Worker assigned to the case prepares a Jurisdiction/Disposition Report, which gives each of the attorneys involved and the judge a report explaining the allegations and the Social Worker’s findings. At the end of the report, there is a recommendation of whether or not the allegations should be sustained – meaning if the case should move forward – and what the disposition – meaning the result – of the case should be.
There are a variety of recommendations, which the Social Worker can make; one of which could be that there are no “Reunification Services” offered to the parent or guardian.
So, what do you do if the Social Worker’s Jurisdiction/Disposition Report recommends that Reunification Services should not be offered to a parent? First and foremost, you need to determine which paragraph of the Welfare and Institutions Code section 361.5(b) the recommendation is based on. Why?
A recommendation based on an allegation under the Welfare and Institutions Code section 361.5(b), paragraph 5 has two hurdles to overcome, instead of just one. So if you receive a report that contains a recommendation not to offer reunification services based on Welfare and Institutions Code section 361.5 (b)(5), you must gear up for a contested hearing to prove by CLEAR AND CONVINCING EVIDENCE that reunification is in the best interests of the child(ren). Further, if that recommendation is based on Welfare and Institutions Code section 361.5 (b)(5), you must also show that if services are offered that those services are likely to prevent further abuse or continued neglect of the child OR that failure to try reunification will be detrimental to the child because the child is closely and positively attached to that parent.
A knowledgeable Juvenile Dependency lawyer can help you present a case to the court to overcome the presumption that reunification services should not be granted to you, if the report is based on an allegation under the Welfare and Institutions Code section 361.5(b), paragraph 5. This is done by establishing that offering services to you is in the best interests of the child(ren) and that if services were offered that you would be successful in completing the services and that they would protect the child from further abuse and neglect. It is also a good idea to prove that the bond between yourself and your child(ren) is such that it would be detrimental to the child not to offer reunification services. This means that because of the relationship and bond between parent/guardian and child that the court should continue trying to reunify you with your child(ren).
Establishing these principles can be done through your own testimony, the testimony of close friends/family, the testimony of an expert, evidence of successful completion or progress of previously offered services, evidence of sobriety or any other relevant information the judge could consider in determining whether continuing reunification service would be in the best interest of the child(ren). Your own testimony can be compelling, but should always be coupled with other testimony to overcome the presumption. For instance, your testimony coupled with a psychologist’s, who has had the opportunity to interview and test you, would be the most successful.
If you are facing a situation where a Social Worker is recommending that your children be taken away from you, you should contact a qualified private attorney who works closely with experts in this field to help you successfully defend your legal rights as a parent.
Contact Bristol, Haynes & Associates today at (909) 466-5575 to discuss your case and how we can help.