Child Neglect or Abuse Court Proceedings
If a judge determines that a child has been neglected or abused, he or she may make the child a “ward of the court.” During this time the judge will hold permanency hearings to monitor the status of the child’s situation. The first hearing must be held within 1 year of the time the child was initially removed from his or her home. Additional hearings will be held at least every six months. The hearings continue until the child is returned home or other permanent arrangements are made. A guardian ad litem (GAL), an adult, usually an attorney, may be appointed by the court to represent the child’s best interests during these court hearings.
During permanency hearings, the judge, or a lawyer called a hearing officer, will do two things: set a permanency goal, and decide whether the parent and child are receiving the services they need to help them. The following are examples of permanency goals:
- Return the child to the parent
- Put the child up for adoption
- Assign a private guardian for the child
- Allow the child to live independently
The goal sets the direction for the case and helps determine what services the parent will receive to help them reach the goal. Often the parent needs to correct certain conditions over a specific period of time in order to have their parental rights restored.
If a parent does not, or cannot, correct the conditions that led to the child’s removal from the home, the judge may terminate the parent’s rights to raise the child. Termination of parental rights strips the parent of all legal rights and responsibilities for the child. This is can be a permanent situation that would prevent any further contact between the parent and child.
It is important for a parent to understand that everyone involved in a juvenile case wants to be able to return the child to the parent. A caseworker will meet regularly with the parent to discuss progress on the tasks described in the court’s service plan. During this period, the parent will also be permitted to regularly visit the child.
The caseworker is the judge’s main source of information, so the parent should maintain contact with that person. It is advisable for the parent to keep a log of phone conversations with caseworker, visits with the child, and overall efforts being made to restore custody so that the information is available if questions arise.
Note: This information was prepared as a public service by the Illinois State Bar Association. Every effort has been made to provide accurate information at the time of publication. For the most current information, please consult your lawyer. If you need a lawyer and do not have one, visit our lawyer referral page.
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