Who are the people who work in dependency court?
There are many different people who work in the child welfare system, including social workers, investigators, foster parents and agencies, and lawyers and judges. Clerks and bailiffs also work in the dependency courtroom.
Throughout the dependency court process, judges are most concerned with protecting the health and welfare of the children and respecting the rights of parents. In dependency court, the judge hears arguments from the parents’ lawyers, the children’s lawyer(s), and county counsel, who represents the County of Los Angeles. The judge also reads and considers reports that are written by social workers who are involved in the case. After listening to all sides and weighing the evidence, the judge makes orders for the family.
Depending on each case, a dependency judge may have to decide whether children should continue living with one or both of their parents, what services should be provided to the family while the case remains open, and how frequent and often visits with children should be.
Parents also have their own lawyers in dependency court. Parents can hire their own attorney or have an attorney appointed to them by the court. Parents’ attorneys represent the parents in court and defend their constitutional rights.
Children also have lawyers in dependency court. Attorneys for children in the child welfare system talk to the children about the case and listens to the children’s questions and concerns. In court, the child’s attorney can raise issues that are important to the child and express what the child’s preferences are if they have any.
In dependency court, the lawyer who represents Los Angeles County and the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) is called county counsel. County counsel presents arguments to the judge about how to apply dependency law to a case. Like the judge and the other lawyers, county counsel relies on the observations and recommendations that social workers include in their report when deciding what to ask the judge to order.
Social workers are employees of the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), which is the agency that investigates child abuse or neglect and coordinates foster care and adoption for Los Angeles County. At the beginning of a dependency case, emergency response social workers investigate whether reports of child abuse or neglect are legitimate. Other social workers work closely with families to arrange for services for children and their parents, coordinate visitation, and assist foster parents if necessary.
Social workers are the individuals most directly involved in family life and play an important role in dependency court. They report to the judge on the welfare of the children and new developments in family life. They inform the judge how far the parents have progressed in their court-ordered programs. They also make recommendations to the judge on where the children should be placed, how much visitation should be ordered, and what programs the parents should enroll in. Because of the important role that social workers play and their familiarity with the family, judges rely on these reports and recommendations when they decide a case.
You the Parent:
You are the most important participant in the process. Perhaps the 2 greatest factor important to winning your case are 1) you completing the things the judge orders you to do; and 2) you doing the things that I as your lawyer ask you to do. We work together as a team but success in this case starts with you.
Learn about the process.