DFCS Online Policies & Procedures

  DFCS Online Policies & Procedures

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Handbook 8: Juvenile Court Hearings and Reports
8-5  Dispositional Hearings
Juvenile Court Hearings and Reports
8-5  Dispositional Hearings
Reference Points
Overview
Purpose
Standard of Proof
Time Lines
Responsibilities of the Dependent Intake Social Worker
Dispositional Hearing Evidence and Disclosures
Dispositional Hearing Outcomes
Placement Orders
Other References


Reference Points
Effective Date: TBA
Last Updated: 02/11/05
 Legal Basis:
Popup Window Welfare and Institutions Code (WIC) 352, 360, 361-361.5(b)
PDF Standing Court Order for Ordinary Medical, Mental Health and Dental Treatment for Dependent Children in Temporary and Out-of-Home Placement - 10/03/01
 CWS/CMS Forms:
bullet Court Management Section:  Court Report Notebook


Overview  

Dispostion is normally one part of the Jurisdictional/Dispositonal Hearing, one hearing in which two separate hearings are incorporated.  However, there are some circumstances under which the Jurisdiction Hearing and the Disposition Hearing are heard at separate times.

Disposition is the stage of the juvenile court process at which, after finding that the child is described by Welfare and Institutions Code (WIC) § 300 at the Jurisdictional Hearing, the court determines if the child should be made a dependent of the Court and, if so, who shall have custody and control over the child (WIC § 360, 361-361.5). The Court also makes orders concerning the child's placement, services to the family and contacts between the child and family members. 

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Purpose  

The legal issues which the Court considers at the dispositional hearing are:

  • Whether:
    • To adjudge the child a dependent child of the court.
    • To remove the child from the parent or guardian.
    • Reasonable efforts were made to prevent or eliminate the need for removal of the child from his/her home.
    • There is a previously non-custodial parent or a relative with whom the child can be placed, if the child is being removed from the custodial parent.
    • The parents should receive reunification services, if the child is removed from their care.
    • There is an identified Concurrent Plan for the child, if removed from the parents.

  • What services should be offeredto the family.
    • The Court considers whether the agency-proposed case plan reasonably addresses the problems and needs of the child and parent.

  • Where the child should be placed.

  • The frequency of visits the child will have with his/her parents, guardians, grandparents and siblings.
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Standard of Proof  

The standard or burden of proof refers to the obligation of a party to establish the requisite degree of belief concerning alleged facts.

At the Dispositional Hearing, depending upon the Court finding, one of two standards or burdens of proof applies (WIC § 361).

  • When a child is ordered to be removed from the physical custody of the parents, the standard of proof is that there is clear and convincing evidence of at least one of the following:
    • There is a substantial danger to the physical health, safety, or protection, or physical or emotional well-being of the child or would be if the child were returned home and there are no reasonable means by which the child's physical health can be protected without removing the child from the child's parents' or guardians' physical custody.
    • The parent or guardian of the child is unwilling to have physical custody of the child and the parent or guardian has been notified that if the child remains out of his/her physical custody for a certain time, the child may be declared permanently free from his/her custody and control.
    • The child is suffering severe emotional damage, as indicated by extreme anxiety, depression, withdrawal, or untoward aggressive behavior toward self or others, and there is no reasonable means by which the child's emotional health may be protected without removing the child from the physical custody of his/her parent or guardian.
    • The minor or a sibling of the minor has been sexually abused or is at substantial risk of being sexually abused by a parent, guardian or a member of the child's household or other person known to his or her parent.
    • The child has been left without any provision for his or her support, or a parent who has been incarcerated or institutionalized cannot arrange for the care of the child, or a relative or other adult custodian with whom the child has been left by the parent is unwilling or unable to provide care or support for the child and the whereabouts of the parent is unknown and reasonable efforts to locate him/her have been unsuccessful.

       
  • When an order is made that no reunification services are to be provided to the parents, the standard of proof is that there is clear and convincing evidence that the criteria is met for at least one of the 15 legal reasons for a no-reunification (bypass) order. [WIC § 361.5(b)]


  • For all other dispositional hearing findings, other than the two cited above, the standard of proof is a preponderance of the evidence; that is, there is more probability than not that the facts as presented are true.


Production of evidence is the means by which facts are proved or disproved, such as testimony, writings, material objects or other things presented to the court.    The three main types of evidence are: testimonial, documentary and real/demonstrative evidence.  A social worker court report is the Department's most commonly submitted evidence.

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Time Lines  

The time lines that relate to the dispositional hearing include the following:

  • If the child is detained and the social worker is recommending that reunification services be offered, the dispositional hearing must be held within 10 judicial days of the jurisdictional hearing.

  • If the child is not detained, the dispositional hearing must be held within 30 days of the jurisdictional hearing. The Court may continue this hearing for an additional 15 days for cause.

  • If the social worker is recommending that no reunification services be offered, the Court will continue the hearing for a period not to exceed 30 days for the social worker to notify the parent of the content of WIC § 361.5(b), that a permanency planning hearing will be held and that his/her parental rights may be terminated.

  • Continuances:
    • The Court may order a continuance at the request of the parent, guardian, child or social worker.   However, the dispositional hearing must be held within 60 days of the detention order unless the Court finds there are exceptional circumstances.   The time clock for reunification services starts at the jurisdictional hearing or or the date that is 60 days after the date on which the child was initially removed from the physical custody of his or her parent or guardian [WIC 361.5(a)(3)].
    • If the child has been removed from the parents' or guardians' custody, the Court may not grant a continuance that would result in the dispositional hearing being completed longer than 60 days after the Initial hearing unless the Court finds that there are exceptional circumstances requiring a continuance. (WIC §352).
    • The Court may not grant any continuances that would cause the dispositional hearing to be completed after the date that is six months from the Initial hearing.
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Responsibilities of the DI Social Worker  

The responsibilities of the DI social worker for the Dispositional Hearing include:

  • Completing a social study (Dispositional Report) that is submitted to the Court and all parties or their counsel within a reasonable time before the hearing.
    • The Court may grant up to 10 days continuance, if the report is not distributed in a timely fashion.

  • Submitting documentation to support recommendations.

  • Choosing the proper recommendations to the Court regarding:
    • Adjudging the child a Court dependent.
    • The plan for the child.
    • Services for the family.
    • Placement of the child.
    • Further court action to free the child from parental custody and control.

  • Completing a Case Plan within 30 calendar days of the first face-to-face contact or the initial removal of the child, whichever comes first.

  • Identifying a Concurrent Plan for achieving legal permanence for the child, if the child has been removed from the parents.

Immediately following the dispositional hearing, the DI social worker completes any work needed to be done on the case and transfers the case to a Continuing social worker, usually the pre-dispo worker, within 48 hours of the hearing.

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Dispositional Hearing Evidence and Disclosures  

At the dispositional hearing, the Court receives into evidence:

  • The social study of the child completed by the social worker.
  • Any study or evaluation completed by a child advocate.
  • Any other legally admissible evidence that is relevant to the circumstances.

The Court shall order the parents to disclose to the social worker the names, residences, and any other known identifying information of any maternal or paternal relatives of the child.

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Dispositional Hearing Outcomes  

The usual outcomes of a dispositional hearing are for the Court to order:

  • Informal Supervision, without adjudicating the child a dependent child of the court.
  • That the child be adjudged a dependent of the court.
  • Family maintenance services, allowing the child to remain in the physical custody of at least one parent or guardian.
  • The removal of the child from the physical custody of his/her parent or guardian and reunification services to the parent and child.
  • The removal of the child from the physical custody of his/her parent or guardian and no reunification services to the parent and child.
  • A legal guardianship, the appointment of a legal guardian, and issuance of a letter of guardianship, in addition to or in lieu of adjudicating the child a dependent of the court, if the parents and child agree.
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Placement Orders  

Until the Dispositional Hearing, any placement in which a child has been residing is a temporary placement.  It is at the Dispositional Hearing that placement orders are made.  The Court's options for placement of a child removed from the care of his/her parent(s) are placement with a:

  • Non-custodial parent:
    • The Court may remove a child from a parent who has legal/physical custody of the child and place the child with a non-custodial parent. In making that determination, the Court may place with the non-custodial parent and:
      • Issue a juvenile court custody order and terminate the jurisdiction of the court.
      • Order reunification services to the previously custodial parent.
      • Order family maintenance services to the previously non-custodial parent, only.
      • Order family maintenance services to the previously non-custodial parent and family reunification services to the parent from whom the child is being removes.

  • Approved home of a relative or non-relative extended family member.
  • Licensed foster home.
  • Foster family agency for placement in a suitable licensed foster family agency (FFA) home.
  • Suitable licensed community care facility.
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Other References  
bullet2 Jurisdiction Hearing for a WIC § Petition
bullet2 Relative Home Approvals: Points and Policies
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