If the Agency determines there are problems and attempts to remediate them have failed it will file a Petition to declare your child “dependent” or even file an Emergency Petition, obtain a court order to take custody of the child and schedule a Shelter Hearing.

Again, if this happens call me immediately at 484-509-2559.

If a Shelter hearing is scheduled you must be there and have the right to have your attorney with you. The hearing is heard by the Juvenile Master and is to determine if your child should remain in custody pending the full hearing on the Petition for Dependency—you will be served, that is receive copies of all these documents.

The full hearing is scheduled quickly and again you have the right to an attorney.

At this hearing the judge will determine after hearing the testimony and reviewing the exhibits if your child should be declared dependent.

Generally, simultaneously the Judge will hear the “Dispositional” hearing as well—this is to decide where your child will reside, whether at home with you or placed in “foster care”.

If you have family or close friends that are willing to help you make certain that they are present for this hearing and provide your caseworker with their names and contact information. There is an alternative procedure called Family Group Decision Making “FGDM”.

If you have these people available and they are willing to help, then a conference will be scheduled to identify all problems and needs and how each person will help you to resolve the issues. Take advantage of this FGDM process.

Following this you will need to engage in “services” which may include mental health, drug and alcohol, parenting, domestic violence and so on. You must perform these services and learn from them to remediate any problems or obstacles to being reunited with your child.

Staying in touch with your caseworker and your attorney is extremely important.

All these proceedings must occur within time limits set by the law-not the judge or the Agency. If your child is in foster care you have 15 months to successfully complete all your required services. Accomplishing this will require extensive time and effort on your part.

Your child may be reunited with you before the 15 months are up—depending on you being compliant and successful.