When children come to court because a parent has hurt them or not taken care of them, this is a juvenile dependency case. Until a child grows up, he or she is dependent on adults and needs their protection. If parents can’t or won’t take care of their child properly, the juvenile court may step in and the child may become “dependent” on the court for safeguarding. When this happens, the child may have to live with relatives or another family for a while. This temporary family is called a foster care family.
Usually, parents want to have their child live with them. The judge and social workers will work with parents to make their home healthy and safe. If they succeed, then the child can move back home with the parents. This is called reunification.
Sometimes parents can’t make their home safe for the child. Then the judge and others may have to find another home where the child can live safely for a long time. They make a permanent plan for a child.
Children can now stay in foster care after age 18 if they need help. These young people are called nonminor dependents. The nonminor dependent works with a judge and social worker to try to live independently like an adult. If a nonminor dependent wants the case to end at 18, the nonminor dependent can always come back to foster care if they need help. This is called re-entry.