What is Dependency Court?
In the child welfare system, dependency court is where judges make decisions for families in order to promote the safety and well-being of children. When there are allegations of child abuse, neglect, or abandonment, the dependency court steps in to provide services to families in order to help them protect and care for their children. If necessary, judges in dependency court may place children with relatives or foster families. Dependency court is designed to empower families to care for their children successfully. Its goal is to help parents reunite with their children where possible and to provide stable, if not permanent, living arrangements to children.
Dependency laws require that cases be completed within certain periods of time out of recognition that childhood cannot be put on hold. In order to limit any harm to children from the dependency court process, judges are limited with the amount of time they can allow parents to fix the issues that brought the family to court. Since parents have a limited period of time to show the judge that they have fixed the issues that brought them to dependency court, parents who succeed in reuniting with their children are often those who take an active role in their case.
The outcomes of cases in dependency court can vary widely. Judges in dependency court can order that parents reunite with their children or they can terminate parental rights. There are many factors that play a role in the judge’s decision, but perhaps the most important one is how far a parent has come in fixing the issues that brought them to dependency court. Other important factors are the obstacles facing parents, the availability of family members capable of providing care or support to the family, the age of the children, and the needs and wishes of the children. Every case in dependency court is unique, and the outcome of a case depends on the facts of each case and the eagerness of the family to address case issues.
Learn about who works in dependency.