DFCS Online Policies & Procedures

  DFCS Online Policies & Procedures

   <<< Return to OPP Table of Contents
Handbook 8: Juvenile Court Hearings and Reports
8-3 Initial Petition ( Detention) Hearing
Juvenile Court Hearings and Reports
8-3  Initial Petition (Detention) Hearing
Reference Points
Purpose of the Initial Petition (Detention) Hearing
Standards for Detention
Initial Petition Hearing Outcomes
Detention Orders
Prima Facie Hearing
Other References

Reference Points
Effective Date: TBA
Last Updated: 10/8/04
 Legal Basis:
Popup Window Welfare and Institutions Code (WIC) § 315
Popup Window WIC § 319 (b), 319 (d)(1), 319(e) and 319(f))
Popup Window WIC § 321


The Initial Petition Hearing, also known as the Detention Hearing, is one held for a child who has been placed in temporary custody and for whom a Juvenile Dependency petition has been filed. The Initial Hearing, as required by Welfare and Institutions Code (WIC) § 315, takes place the judicial day following the filing of the 300 Dependency Petition. It is a civil proceeding, as opposed to a criminal proceeding. At this hearing, the Court makes a finding as to whether or not there is enough evidence to further detain the child.

    < Return to OPP Table of Contents | ^ Back to Top of Page
Purpose of the Initial Petition (Detention) Hearing  

The purpose of the Initial Hearing is to determine if the child shall continue in temporary custody, pending the Jurisdictional Hearing. At the Initial Hearing, the social worker reports to the court:

  • The reasons why the child has been removed from the parent's custody.
  • The need, if any, for continued detention.
  • The available services and the referral methods to those services that could facilitate the return of the child to the custody of the child's parents or guardians.
  • Whether there are any relatives who are able and willing to take temporary custody of the child.

The parents or guardians have the right to contest the information in the social worker's report. If they do, the matter is set for a Prima Facie Hearing.

    < Return to OPP Table of Contents | ^ Back to Top of Page
Standards for Detention  

The juvenile court may order that a child be detained in temporary custody for 15 days, pending a jurisdictional hearing under the following circumstances:

  • Prima Facie Showing

    At the Initial Petition Hearing, it is presumed that the minor shall be released to the parent, unless a prima facie showing under WIC § 319 (b) is made that:

    • The child comes within WIC § 300, and
    • Continuance in the parent's or guardian's home is contrary to the child's welfare, and
    • Any of the following circumstances exist:
      1. There is a substantial danger to the physical health of the child or the child is suffering severe emotional damage, and there are no reasonable means by which the child's physical or emotional health may be protected without removing the child from the parents' or guardians' physical custody.
      2. There is substantial evidence that a parent, guardian, or custodian of the child is likely to flee the jurisdiction of the court.
      3. The child has left a placement in which he or she was placed by the Juvenile Court.
      4. The child indicates an unwillingness to return home, if a person residing in the home has physically or sexually abused the child.


  • Reasonable Efforts Finding

Under WIC 319(d)(1), the Court must make a determination on the record, referencing the social worker's report or other evidence, as to whether reasonable efforts were made to prevent or eliminate the need for removal of the child from his or her home and whether there are available services that would prevent the need for further detention. Services to be considered for purposes of making this determination are:

    • Case Management.
    • Counseling.
    • Emergency Shelter Care.
    • Emergency in-home caretakers.
    • Out-of- home respite care.
    • Teaching and Demonstrating Homemakers.
    • Parenting training.
    • Transportation.
    • Any other child welfare services authorized by the State Department of Social Services.
  • Placement

If the child can be returned to the custody of his or her parent or guardian through the provision of those services, the Court shall place the child with his or her parent or guardian and order that the services be provided. If the child cannot be returned to the custody of his or her parent or guardian, the Court shall determine if there is a relative who is able, approved and willing to care for the child. If no relative or non-relative extended family member is available for temporary placement, the child remains in an emergency licensed foster home.

    < Return to OPP Table of Contents | ^ Back to Top of Page
Initial Petition Hearing Outcomes  

The possible outcomes at the Initial Petition Hearing are that the Court may order that:

  • The child continue in temporary custody, pending a Jurisdictional/Dispositional Hearing.
  • The child be released to the parents, pending a Jurisdictional/Dispositional Hearing.
  • That the child be returned to the parents and the petition be dismissed.
    < Return to OPP Table of Contents | ^ Back to Top of Page
Detention Orders  

Following WIC § 319(e), when the Court orders a child detained, the Court will:

  • State the facts on which the decision is based.
  • Specify why the initial removal was necessary.
  • Reference the social worker's report or other evidence relied upon.
  • Order temporary placement and care of the child to be vested with DFCS.
  • Order services to be provided as soon as possible to reunify the child and his or her family if appropriate.

Following WIC § 319(f), if the child is not released from custody, the Court may order the child placed for a period not to exceed 15 judicial days:

  • In the approved home of a relative.
    • The Court will order the parent to disclose to the social worker the names, residences, and any know identifying information of any maternal or paternal relatives of the child.
  • In the approved home of a non relative extended family member (NREFM).
  • In an emergency shelter or other suitable licensed placement.
  • In a place exempt from licensure designated by the Juvenile Court.
    < Return to OPP Table of Contents | ^ Back to Top of Page
Prima Facie Hearing  

A Prima Facie Hearing is an evidentiary detention rehearing conducted by the court within three judicial days of the original detention order at the request of the parent or guardian. (WIC § 321)  A prima facie hearing is a hearing to present evidence to support the petitioner's (DFCS) request to detain the child. The petitioner must present enough evidence to make a prima facie case for detention.

In lieu of a request for a prima facie hearing, the Court may set the matter for a jurisdictional trial within 10 days. A Prima Facie Hearing does not eliminate the need for Jurisdictional or Dispositional Hearings.

    < Return to OPP Table of Contents | ^ Back to Top of Page
Other References  
bullet2 Reasonable Efforts
    < Return to OPP Table of Contents | ^ Back to Top of Page