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Dependency is the assertion of jurisdiction over a child by the County Human Services Agency. The child is made a "ward" of the juvenile court and in most cases taken from the parents and placed with a foster parent or relative approved by the Agency.

The parents are assigned a social worker who prepares a plan for the parents to reunify with the child. If the parents "substantially" comply with the plan, the child is reunified with them. If they do not, other long term placement options such as foster care or adoption are considered.

The advantages of a dependency is that the goal is reunification. During the pendency of the case the parents are given access to programs and assistance to address the problems that gave rise to the need for the court to intervene in the first place. Typically this involves drug and alcohol counseling, parenting classes, anger management classes, mental health assistance, or perhaps job training or placement.

The disadvantage of a dependency is both the Agency and the Child are represented by attorneys. The parents are provided an attorney only if they have little or no income. This often causes the unrepresented parent to be confused by the process and drop out simply because they didn’t understand what was happening to them.

Another frequent problem is the inability of the parent to establish a working relationship with the agency. Social workers can often seem harsh or uncaring, especially since they have so many obligations under the law. For example, any possible deviation from the reunification plan must be reported. It is not their duty to interpret the gravity of the "offense", that duty is left to others. But often they seem uncaring because they report the offense and would lose their job if they did not.

A good attorney is absolutely essential to success in the dependency context. Coordinating the social workers, County Counsel and children’s counsel can be maddening. It is also imperative the parent understand what is expected of them and this is often very difficult to for them to figure out because the information comes to them from so many sources. Our office has an excellent relationship with children’s counsel, County Counsel and the Dependency Court Judges. We have appeared in the Dependency Courtrooms hundreds of times over more than 25 years.

The Law Offices of Michael J. Smith are located directly
across the street from the Ventura County Court House
789 S. Victoria Avenue
Suite 208
Ventura, CA 93003

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