My child has been taken by CPS or law enforcement. What happens next?
Parents or legal custodians are entitled to have a court hearing, called a Shelter Care hearing, within 3 court days (usually held on Tuesday or Thursday in Clark County) to determine if your child can safely be placed with you until the Dependency Fact Finding trial. You will be notified, probably by the CPS investigator, of the day and time for your hearing. It is not unusual for this notice to be by a phone call the evening before the hearing, so be sure that the CPS investigator has a working phone number to reach you. It is critical that you show up at the hearing. If you meet certain financial limitations, you will qualify for a court-appointed attorney at that hearing. If you do not qualify for a court-appointed attorney, the Shelter Care hearing will be postponed to give you the opportunity to hire your own lawyer. You should not attempt to act as your own attorney—this is not an easy legal process. Depending on when your Shelter Care hearing is to occur, there may also be a meeting at the CPS office called a Family Team Decision Meeting (FTDM). The parents are to be invited to this meeting, as well as family members and relatives who may be potential placement alternatives or available for other forms of support such as transportation or visit supervision. School personnel, if appropriate, may also be invited to the FTDM. You, as parent or legal custodian, are entitled to invite people for support or relevant input to the meeting. The purpose of the FTDM is to explore placement options for the child. You should attend the FTDM and be sure to invite any relative or close family friend who might be willing to have your child placed temporarily with them as an alternative to foster care. You are also entitled to have legal counsel with you at the FTDM.
When can I see my child?
This will depend on the facts and circumstances that led to the removal of the child from your care. If there is an injury to the child or allegations of physical or sexual abuse, then law enforcement may also be investigating the matter and this can delay visits with your kids. However, in most cases, visits will be arranged very soon after the child is taken into care and visits will always be discussed at the Shelter Care hearing. Initially, visits will likely occur at the CPS office and will be supervised.
When should I get an attorney?
An attorney will be appointed to you at the Shelter Care hearing if you meet certain financial guidelines. You are free to hire your own attorney at any time, including before the Shelter Care hearing. If you do not qualify for a court-appointed attorney, you are well-advised to find the means to hire an attorney who is experienced in Dependency matters, and to do that immediately. Time is of the essence in these cases and it is important to get involved quickly.
Is Native American heritage important in dependency cases?
Yes! Very important. A separate body of federal law can apply to cases where the child has Native American ancestry. Often, this will provide both the parent and the child with advantages within the child welfare system. So, it is very important to determine if the child actually has such ancestry and, if so, to inform the CPS investigator and your attorney immediately.
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