A knock at the door or a telephone call from Child Protective Services can be one of the most frightening events in a parent’s life.
From the moment a child protection investigation begins, there are questions, accusations, and suspicion. The future of the parent’s custody is unknown. The parent’s legal rights are vague. Until the matter is over, anxiety will be high.
I am experienced with helping people in child protection cases across the Twin Cities metro area. This experience includes representing custodial parents with whom the child lives, the non-custodial parents who are concerned for their child's welfare, and other family members.
There are many parts to child protection cases. There is the question of whether the children should be in their parent’s care during the case. This decision arises within the first 48 hours and it can determine the direction of the case.
Next there is the question of whether there should be a child protection case at all – each parent has the right to demand a trial for a judge to determine at the beginning if there is even grounds for the County to continue the case. Often, concerns about abuse, neglect, drug abuse, alcoholism, mental health, and special needs are cited as reasons to allow a case to continue.
If the case is not dismissed, the attorneys work to propose a case plan for the court to order. A case plan sets out requirements for parents to address their needs and their children’s needs to rectify the issues that prompted the investigation.
The court often directs the parents during the case to cooperate in a relative or kin search so that alternative custodians can be considered. If sufficient progress is not made on the case plan, a second trial may be held on the question of whether to transfer custody to the non-custodial parent, a relative or kin or, if no family members are eligible, to terminate parental rights.
The statutes, court rules, court orders, and case plans can be very confusing to parents and family members. By knowing them well, I effectively use our client’s needs, their input, and their desires to advocate on my client’s behalf to influence the outcome. Further, I enforce the strict statutory timelines to the client’s advantage.
One advantage of having private counsel is time that I have to meet with clients, return telephone calls, and be readily familiar with my clients' cases. Attorneys who are appointed by the court are well-intentioned but often over-burdened and not available to spend the time on the file and with the client that the client desires.
I use my client’s intimate understanding of what is best for the child to craft a strategy that ensures that client’s goals for the child are achieved. For custodial parents, that is reunification with their children in their home. For non-custodial parents, grandparents, other family members, or others, that goal is sometimes reunification and other times it is transferring custody or terminating parental rights. Whatever the goals are, I can help parents and family members in child protection cases.