Guide to Dependency Court – For Children

If you have been removed from your home or if you are still living at home but there is a social worker involved in your life, you probably have a dependency case. This page has information for kids about what it means to have a dependency case.

What does "dependency" mean?

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 your parents can't or won’t take care of you properly, the juvenile court may step in and you may become “dependent” on the court for safeguarding. When this happens, you may have to live with relatives or another family for a while.

Who is who in a dependency case?

Having a dependency case means that different people will be checking on how you are doing. During your dependency case you will definitely meet your lawyer and your social worker.  You might also meet the judge, if you decide to go to court. The judge might give permission for you to meet with a Court Appointed Special Advocate.

So, who are all these people and what do they have to do with you?

  • Your lawyer: This person is your advocate – he or she speaks for you and fights for you in court. Your conversations with your lawyer are confidential. That means that your lawyer cannot tell anyone else what you have told him/her unless you say it is okay. In California, your lawyer must tell the judge what is in your best interests and he/she must tell the judge what you want. Sometimes those can be two different things. Talk to your lawyer if you have questions about why he or she thinks a certain outcome is in your best interests and you don’t agree.
  •  The social worker: He or she is responsible for helping foster youth in every way. Social workers find the foster home, make sure you have everything you need, and that you are happy. They also have to visit you every month to make sure everything is going well.
  • The judge: He or she tries to make sure all your needs are being met. She is also the person who makes the big decisions in your case, like whether or not you will go home and what your visitation with your parents will be like. The judge makes these decisions based on what is in your best interests.
  • CASA: Court appointed special advocates (CASA) are people who volunteer to work with kids who have dependency cases. CASAs are supposed to look out for your best interests and give the court their opinion on how things are going for you.

You have rights!

It may not feel like it sometimes, but you have certain rights in a dependency case. You have the right to:

  • Have a support person present when a social worker interviews you at school;
  • Go to court. If you are 10 years old or older, the social worker or your lawyer must tell you the court date and ask if you want to attend.
  • Be involved in coming up with your case plan. If you are 12 years old or older and placed in a foster home, group home, or with relatives, you have the right to go over your case plan, sign it, and have a copy of it. You also have the right to be told about any changes that are going to be made to your case plan. >
  • Stay at your school. If you have been removed from your parents you have the right to stay at your school
  • Visit with your siblings. If you have been removed from your parents you have the right to ask the judge to allow you to visit with your siblings.

Click to see a full list of foster kids’ rights.