Grandparents Guide to Child Custody

My Grandkids Are in Foster Care – Now What?

When kids are removed from their parents’ care because of allegations of abuse or neglect, this starts the Dependency process in the juvenile courts in Arizona. In Arizona our laws have a preference that kids be placed with a family member, usually a grandparent, or another close relative. But sometimes kids will be placed with a licensed foster care provider. Grandparents or family members in this situation who want to be a placement need to act quickly for their grandkids.

Dependency cases have many steps and milestones along the way. One of the best descriptions of these steps in this handbook meant for kids and teens in the process. The process goes like this:

1. Department of Child Safety (DCS, what was previously CPS) investigates allegations of child abuse, neglect, drug or alcohol abuse, or mental health issues. If the situation warrants the children are removed from the home.2. Within 5 to 7 days a Preliminary Protective Conference and Hearing are held to determine whether the children should stay in out-of-home care and what services the parents and children should receive. Services include counseling, classes, supervised visits, and drug testing.

3. If the parents don’t admit or plead no contest to DCS’s allegations regarding neglect or abuse a hearing is held to prove those allegations. If the allegations are proved, the Court determines that the children are dependent on State for their care and the Dependency moves forward.

4. Once Dependency has been established, the parents must follow the case plan that has been created – getting counseling, visiting the kids, maintaining sobriety. A review hearing is held every three months or so.

5. At the end of 6 months if the child is under the age of 3 or 12 months if the children are older, a Permanency Planning Hearing is held. If the parents have been progressing on the case plan, the Permanency Plan may remain reunification with the parents. If they have not improved the situation, then Permanency may be changed to Severance and Adoption, Permanent Guardianship, or alternate plan such as Independent Living for kids over the age of 16.

6. If the case plan changes to Severance and Adoption or Guardianship, the Court will set a hearing so that State can prove that the parents have not fixed the situation that led to the Dependency and that it is in the best interests of the children to either be adopted or have another adult serve as their permanent guardian.

If you are family member and the child has not been placed with you, you may need to intervene in the process, so that your home is considered as a placement. You will need to either hire an attorney or ask the court to appoint one for you. You need to be active in all the steps above and be present physically and emotionally in the kids’ lives. Please do not wait until severance or adoption to get involved!

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