It’s your worst nightmare. Your child has been detained by CPS for some period of time. After much grief and hard work, they are finally back in your home. It is only then that you learn the horrifying truth about their experience in the dependency system: they were abused or neglected by a resource family provider, a group home staff member, or another youth while in the foster care system.
The sad fact is that although CPS removed your children from your care in order to protect them, they may not have placed them in a safer home. We have seen cases where the foster parents (or resource parents) abused children in their care, where group home staff members failed to adequately monitor and supervise the children residing in the home, or when detained youth were abused by other children they were placed with. If that’s the case, your child may have a potential civil lawsuit against the county CPS agency and/or the foster family agency that placed them in a dangerous situation. If you believe that’s the case, you should call Booth Law for a free case evaluation. Here are some of the questions you’ll be asked:
- Is your child currently safe/in a safe placement?
- If your child is currently in a placement where you believe they are being abused and/or neglected, we will always tell you to call the police first. We have no ability to remove your child from a dangerous home, and your child’s safety is our first priority.
- Did your child disclose the abuse to anyone while they were still living in the dangerous placement?
- This could be a social worker, a teacher, a therapist, or even you, if you then told the social worker or law enforcement about it.
- If you child disclosed the abuse, what did CPS (of the foster family agency) do about it?
- Does the perpetrator (whether an adult or another child) have a background of hurting or abusing others?
- Are the police currently involved? If so, what was the outcome of their investigation?
- How is your child doing today? Are they in therapy or other treatment for what they have been through?
- What documentation, if any, do you have about any of the above?
Your duty to your dependent clients goes beyond representing them in juvenile court. Pursuant to Welfare and Institutions Code section 317(e), juvenile counsel is charged “in general with the representation of the child’s interests.” In particular, subsection (3) states that counsel “shall investigate the interests of the child beyond the scope of the juvenile proceeding, and report to the court other interests of the child that may need to be protected by the institution of other administrative or judicial proceedings.” In addition, California Rule of Court 5.660(g) states, “At any time following the filing of a petition under section 300 and until juvenile court jurisdiction is terminated, any interested person may advise the court of information regarding an interest or right of the child to be protected or pursued in other judicial or administrative forums. . . . If the attorney for the child . . . learns of any such interest or right, the attorney . . . must notify the court immediately and seek instructions from the court as to any appropriate procedures to follow.”
Therefore, if it becomes apparent to you that your minor client may have a potential civil lawsuit against entity, it is your legal duty to report that fact to the juvenile court. Failure to do so is not only a breach of your duty to your client, but also malpractice.
Some dependency attorneys have expressed reluctance to inform the court of potential lawsuits if they know that the county in which they work is a potential defendant. In some cases, dependency lawyers are employed by or paid by the county. This can cause them to feel uncomfortable with the idea of assisting a child in pursuing a case against the lawyer’s employer or source of income. Even if you believe you have a potential conflict of interest, you must inform the court of potential torts committed against your client. The court may choose to appoint a different adult to be the guardian ad litem to avoid the conflict. But refusing to disclose such information to the court is not an option.
Once the court is made aware of the potential for a civil lawsuit, the judge should appoint you or another competent adult to be that child’s guardian ad litem for purposes of civil litigation. At that point, it is your responsibility to hire a civil lawyer who is competent to pursue a case on the minor’s behalf. In our office, we often cannot tell whether there is a viable case without filing an 827 petition and reviewing the juvenile case file. Once we have had an opportunity to review the case file, we can determine whether CPS, an FFA, or any other people or entities breached duties owed the dependent minor and whether there is a basis to move forward.
Child protection news and settlements we’ve obtained for our clients
Unveiling the Crisis: CDSS Report Exposes Child Welfare Failures in Imperial CountyNovember 17, 2023
Booth Law Seeks Justice for Turpin KidsSeptember 7, 2022
4 years after rescue: Turpin children still living in undesirable condition despite donations and pledgesJuly 18, 2022
Booth Law Steps in to Seek Justice for Abused Turpin ChildrenMay 5, 2022
Noah Cuatro: A Victim of Child Welfare System FailureAugust 31, 2021
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