Child Abuse & Neglect
The Federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) defines child abuse and neglect as, at minimum: “any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation” or “an act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm”.
Federal legislation sets minimum standards for states and each state is responsible for defining child maltreatment. Definitions of child abuse and neglect are typically divided in either civil statutes or criminal statutes. Civil statutes provide definitions of child maltreatment to guide individuals who have to identify and report suspected child abuse. Criminal statutes are for those that are offenders and subject to arrest and prosecution in criminal courts.
A local department of social services may remove a child from his or her home if necessary to protect the child from abuse or neglect. If a child is removed, the department will file a petition in a case called Child in Need of Assistance (CINA) alleging that the child has been abused, neglected, has a development disability or a mental disorder; AND the child’s parents are unable or unwilling to provide proper care for the child. After the child is removed, the court will hold a Shelter Care Hearing as soon as possible. There, the judge or master will decide whether the temporary out of home placement of the child in “shelter care” should continue. This order can be for up to 30 days.
The court will then hold an Adjudicatory Hearing within 30 days of the Shelter Care hearing. At this hearing, the court will decide whether the facts alleged in the petition are true. After this hearing the disposition hearing will take place, in which the court will decide if the child is a “child in Need of Assistance”.
If the court decides that, the court may: return the child to the care of his or her parents; return the child home but require the department of social services to supervise the home; order the parents or child to participate in certain services; order additional assessments to determine what is best for the child;place the child in foster care or a treatment facility; place the child in the care of a relative; or determine custody, visitation, support or paternity of a child. The court must hold regular review hearings to ensure the child is cared for properly. These hearings are called Permanency Planning Hearings and need to take place at least every 6 months. If you are involved in a CINA case or know someone who is, contact a lawyer to get help.