The history of Juvenile Dependency Courts is quite a grim one – deciding the fates of families whose children have been removed from homes is never an easy task. The problem over the past few years lies mostly with the fact that caseloads are at their highest of high. In many counties in California, you will find that judges are representing hundreds of cases a day that revolve around families and children. These caseloads are at such an all-time high that they are far higher than even the maximum recommended standards. On a weekday in 2008, a judge in San Joaquin ruled on 135 families in one day and lawyers in San Bernardino County represented 464 children each. Imagine how much the rates must have increased since then. The sad fact of the matter is that, because of the overpopulation of dependency cases taken by California courts, many are not seeing satisfactory results. The judges have many cases to get through in one day and so what should have been a one-hour case turns into 20 minutes before a ruling is made. Is this fair to the children?
The Differences Between Juvenile Delinquency and Dependency
A juvenile delinquent is a minor between the ages of 10 and 18 (typically) who has committed an act of crime. The minor will usually not have a standard trial like an adult, but will instead go trough an adjudication process where they will receive a disposition and a sentence. These cases get started when a prosecutor or officer files a civil petition that charges the juvenile with violating the law. If the court decides that the juvenile is determined to be a delinquent, the court will have the authority to rule on what is in the best interest of the juvenile. One should always keep in mind that juvenile court will not always lead to incarceration. No, the courts may choose to send the juvenile to a traditional juvenile detention facility or place the juvenile under house arrest. Furthermore, judges may choose to sentence them to counseling, curfews, and probation. A juvenile will probably see the courts take more informal steps to handling the case and dishing out the punishment.
Juvenile dependency, on the other hand, is a bit different. Many children in juvenile dependency cases will come to court because their parent or guardian has not taken care of them, or has hurt them. These cases are heard in juvenile court just like delinquency cases. The judge will make a very serious and important decision on whether or not a child should be removed from a problematic home environment. In many dependency cases, a social worker will make their presence. This is somebody who has been trained to protect children and keep them safe from harm, taking on their case and getting a better understanding of the situation at hand. If abuse or neglect is happening, the social worker will get to the bottom of it by speaking with the family and child(ren) involved. In these cases, the courts do not want to specifically pry a child from their home. No, in many situations they will work on something known as reunification, where the judge and social worker will force the parents to better themselves and their homes a variety of different ways so that they can bring the child home to a safe and clean place.
If you have a case being heard in either juvenile delinquency or dependency court, you may wonder what options you have. The situation may be scary or threatening to you, which is why you should have an attorney on your side to help you every step of the way. Call The Law Office of Peter Blair today for more information on what options you do have.