12 things to know about child protective proceedings
Authored By: Legal Information for Families Today (LIFT)
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If you are involved in a child protective proceeding that was started by the Administration for Children’s Services (ACS), you have the following rights and responsibilities:
You have a right to know exactly what is required of you in order to be reunited with your children. You should know:
What you have been ordered to do and how much time you have to do it,
What will happen if you do not comply with an order, and
Who is available to help you.
You have a right to supportive services to help you achieve your goals. You should receive help from ACS or another agency to find adequate housing, drug treatment, or other social services. Your lawyer may be able to demand that you get these services if you have been denied them.
A lawyer should be assigned by the court to represent you. Make sure you have the lawyer’s full name, phone number, and office address. Find out the best time to call your lawyer. Your lawyer is required to talk with you about your right to have a hearing, to have your children returned immediately, and your right to appeal your case.
You should consult with a lawyer before making any decisions regarding the custody and care of your children, whether he or she was assigned by the court or is one you hired.
There are many stages and different steps in child protective proceedings. You will probably have to come to court several times. It is helpful to understand the whole process. Ask your lawyer to explain each step you should take, and read the material provided by LIFT or another agency.
You have a right to a “Section 1028” hearing to demand that your children be returned to your care immediately as long as they are not in immediate danger, no matter what else is happening in your case.
ACS is required to investigate whether you have any relatives that can care for your children before placing them in foster care with strangers.
You have a right to visit your children in foster care and to know when and where visitation will be scheduled. You have a right to request that visits occur at a time that works for you. Also, you may ask for more visits.
You must plan for the return of your children. This means you must make it safe for them emotionally, physically, educationally, medically and financially. If you do not make these plans, your parental rights may be terminated. ACS could ask that your rights be terminated if you have been out of touch with your children for a period of six months or more. You should make sure that ACS knows where you are at all times. The more active you are in planning for and pursuing reunification (getting your children back), the faster it will happen.
If your child has been in care for some time, you may oppose an extension of placement if you feel that you are ready to regain custody of your children. ACS may not extend a foster care placement for more than one year without a court hearing about the agency’s plan for the child.
If your child is in foster care, you must be allowed to attend meetings at the foster care agency to determine the plan for your children. This is called a service plan review (SPR) or uniform case review (UCR) meeting, and you may bring someone with you to this meeting. You also have a right to know and meet your child’s teachers, health and mental health providers while they are in foster care.
You can report complaints about ACS or foster care agencies to (212) 676-9421. For information and support for parents whose children are in foster care call CWOP at (212) 348-3000. To report concerns about your assigned attorney call (212) 401-0800 if the attorney’s office is in Manhattan or the Bronx. Call (718) 923-6300 if the attorney’s office is in Queens, Staten Island or Brooklyn.
Where to get more help
If you have questions about this information, or other Family Court matters, call our Hotline at (212) 343-1122. We are available Monday–Friday 9 am – 5 pm.
Disclaimer: This information should not take the place of a consultation with a lawyer. LIFT encourages all individuals involved with the Family Court and child welfare systems to consult with a lawyer.