What are my rights?
Children Youth and Families (CYF) wants to keep families together. If your children can live with you and be safe, they will stay with you. Most families who are involved with CYF continue to live together under the same roof. While parents continue to parent, they are also receiving services from CYF. The services will help the family work through problems and improve family life.
If adults and children cannot live together safely, CYF will provide a safe, temporary home for the children. This “out-of-home” placement may be with relatives. It may be with a foster family. Less often, it is in a group home, a residential center or shelter.
If your child is removed from your home, a “shelter hearing” will be held before a Judge within 72 hours.
If your child is not living with you, CYF will work with you to help you make changes. These changes will allow you to provide a safe home and bring your family together again. You may have to decide to put your child’s needs for safety and nurturing above your own needs. You will have to stay away from destructive people, improve your choices and end addictions. This may be difficult, but CYF will offer suggestions and services to help you.
What are my rights?
You have a right to raise your child, as protected by the United States Constitution. The state can only get involved if a judge or master decides your actions harm or could harm your child. This includes things you should do for your child like getting him to school, taking her to the doctor, watching over him, and making sure she gets enough to eat and has a safe place to live. CYF is required to check reports of child abuse and neglect. If CYF thinks your child cannot safely remain with you, CYF must tell the judge or master.
You have a right to be told when there are court dates concerning you, your child and your family. You also have a right to tell what happened at the court dates. You have the right to have a lawyer to represent you in court. If you cannot afford a lawyer and you meet the income guidelines, you have the right to a free lawyer appointed by the court.
Your lawyer should explain the family court process to you and explain your rights to you. You have a right to an interpreter appointed by the court if you do not speak or understand English or if you are deaf or hard of hearing.
Being involved in the child welfare system is hard. This is may a time of great stress for you, your child and your family. It is important to have someone you can trust guiding you through the process. Remember to stay involved with your child, keep in touch with your lawyer and caseworker and above all, ask for help if you don’t understand something or are feeling overwhelmed.