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Colorado dependency and neglect cases often go hand and hand with criminal accusations of sexual assault charges and other misdemeanor and felony charges of child abuse. Understanding how these civil cases work – is critical to the interrelationship of these cases to the more serious – in many ways – criminal charges with the same issues.
In Colorado Child Abuse and Neglect is defined as an act or omission ( a failure to act ) in which:
1. a child exhibits evidence of skin bruising, bleeding, malnutrition, failure to thrive, burns, fracture of any bone, subdural hematoma, soft tissue swelling, or death and such condition is not justifiably explained or the history given concerning the condition is at variance with the degree or type of condition or the circumstances indicate that the condition may not be the product of an accidental occurrence,
2. a child is subjected to unlawful sexual behavior,
3. the child is in need of services because the child’s parent fails to take the same actions to provide adequate food, clothing, shelter, medical care or supervision that a prudent parent would take,
4. a child is subjected to emotional abuse (meaning an identifiable and substantial impairment of the child’s intellectual or psychological functioning or development or substantial risk of such impairment),
5. any case in which, in the presence of a child, or on the premises where a child is found or where a child resides, a controlled substance is manufactured or attempted to be manufactured.
The Dependant and Neglected child is identified as:
1. one whose parent has abandoned him, subjected him to mistreatment or abuse, or allowed another to mistreat or abuse him without taking lawful means to stop the mistreatment or abuse and prevent it from recurring;
2. one who lacks proper parental care because of things that the child’s parent, guardian or legal custodian does or does not do for the child;
3. one whose environment is injurious to his welfare;
4. one whose parent, guardian or legal custodian fails or refuses to provide the child with proper or necessary subsistence, education, medical care, or any other care necessary for his health, guidance or well-being;
5. one who is homeless, without proper care, or not living with his parent, guardian orlegal custodian through no fault of the parent, guardian or legal custodian;
6. one who has run away from home or otherwise is beyond the control of his parent, guardian, or legal custodian.
7. one who has been subjected by a parent, guardian, or legal custodian to an identifiable pattern of habitual abuse and that parent has been a respondent in another dependency or neglect case or has been determined to have caused the death of another child.
This is a hearing to determine what order of disposition, which may include a treatment plan, custody orders, or termination of parental rights, should be made concerning a child who has been adjudicated as dependent or neglected. ( see treatment plans below ).
GALS are licensed attorneys appointed by the court to act in the best interest of the child.
In dependency and neglect situations, a child can be removed from their home and/or taken to a shelter or foster care facility by law enforcement or pursuant to a court order on request of a social services caseworker.
This can occur when:
1. the juvenile is abandoned, lost, or seriously endangered and immediate removal appears to be necessary for such child’s protection or the protection of others;
2. when there are reasonable grounds to believe that a child has run away from home; or
3. when an arrest warrant has been issued for the child’s parent, guardian or legal custodian for the crime of parental kidnapping.
Dependency and neglect cases most often arise where a child is being abused or where a child is beyond the control of the parents. The children are usually placed in a shelter facility or foster home. A hearing must be held within forty-eight hours, if law enforcement took the action or within seventy-two hours if the court took the action, excluding weekends and court holidays.
Where there are allegations of serious problems in the child’s home, they are usually not immediately returned to the parent’s home.
1. Just as with juvenile criminal delinquency cases, dependency and neglect cases are also initiated by the filing of a petition. The parent(s), guardian(s) or legal custodian(s) of the child or children are named as respondents and are given a copy of the petition and told when to appear in court.
2. The respondents are advised of their rights with respect to the petition and asked to enter an admission or denial to the allegations. If a respondent admits the allegations, the child or children are adjudicated to be dependent or neglected with respect to that respondent. If the respondent enters a denial, he or she is entitled to have a trial to the court or to a jury.
3. The term “adjudication” is also used in dependency and neglect (D&N) cases. An Adjudicatory Hearing is a hearing to determine whether the preponderance of the evidence supports that a child is dependent and neglected.
4. When there is an adjudication in a D&N case, this means that there has been a determination that the circumstances of the child or children who are the subject of the case meet one or more of the statutory definitions of “neglected or dependent child.” CRS § 19-3-102.
5. If there is no finding of dependency or neglect at trial or by the admission of a respondent, the petition is dismissed and the court and social services are no longer involved with the family.
6. If there is an adjudication in dependency or neglect, a treatment plan must be designed to try to correct the problems that initially gave rise to the filing of the case and any other problems within the family unit that are subsequently discovered.
The treatment plan is most often focused on changes the parents must make, but a treatment plan can sometimes include requirements for a child as well.
Treatment plans are supposed to be tailored to meet the unique circumstances of each parent and each child. Treatment plans can include parenting classes that are designed to teach people to be more effective parents. The treatment plan can also include a wide variety of types of counseling including substance abuse counseling and random urine analysis. Many treatment plans also include requirements that parents have safe and adequate housing, that they be employed and budget their money appropriately and that they see their children regularly during supervised visitations when the children are not in their custody.
An example of a treatment plan component that might impose requirements on a child could include those cases when one child in the family has sexually assaulted a sibling:
1. The perpetrator could be required to participate in counseling to address his aberrant behavior.
2. The victim could be required to attend counseling to address his or her victimization, and the parents could be required to attend counseling and/or classes to learn how to support both children’s treatment and to provide appropriate boundaries and supervision in the home if or when both children are in the home.
3. Court Reviews: If the child remains in the custody or supervision of the department of social services, the court will review the case on a regular basis in order to determine whether the requirements of the case treatment plan are met.
Additional requirements may be added if additional problems are discovered and other terms of the treatment plan or changes in placement may occur if those changes are necessary to protect the best interests of the child.
In extreme cases a judge can terminate parental rights if it is proven to the court that the parents have not complied with an appropriate treatment plan, that although the parents have complied with the treatment plan, they are still unfit and no other services can be provided which would render the parents fit within a reasonable time, or that no treatment plan could be devised that could address the unfitness of the parents.
Once a termination order is final, the parents no longer have any legal rights to see the children or to direct how the children are raised. If the children are young enough, they may be adopted by another family. It is much more difficult to find families to adopt older children and those with severe emotional or physical problems.
In those cases, the state provides for their care in foster homes and other placements until they reach at least the age of 18. The Court may continue to require the department of social services to provide care and services until the age of twenty-one for children who have been adjudicated dependent or neglected prior to their eighteenth birthday.
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H. Michael Steinberg has been a Colorado criminal law specialist attorney for 30 years (as of 2012). For the First 13 years of his career, he was an Arapahoe – Douglas County District Attorney Senior prosecutor. In 1999 he formed his own law firm for the defense of Colorado criminal cases.
In addition to handling tens of thousands of cases in the trial courts of Colorado, he has written hundreds of articles regarding the practice of Colorado criminal law and frequently provides legal analysis on radio and television, appearing on the Fox News Channel, CNN and Various National and Local Newspapers and Radio Stations. Please call him at your convenience at 720-220-2277
If you have questions about Colorado Dependency and Neglect (D and N) Cases in the Denver metropolitan area and throughout Colorado, attorney H. Michael Steinberg will be pleased to answer those questions and to provides quality legal representation to those charged in Colorado adult and juvenile criminal matters.