Juvenile Dependency


Having social services involved in your life can be an extremely stressful and scary time for your family. Navigating an unexpected phone call or knock on your door from a social worker or law enforcement can be unnerving and requires a careful and measured approach. Everything communicated to a social worker or law enforcement from a blanket refusal to speak with them to an admission to abusive conduct can be used against you and your family.

Communicating with an attorney experienced and well versed in juvenile dependency cases can facilitate a fair investigation, healthy communication with social services, or potentially understanding and avoiding communication if your 5th Amendment rights against self-incrimination may be triggered based on the facts and circumstances of your case.

The focus of “CPS” investigation and/or Juvenile Dependency cases is risk of harm to a child. An investigation or case can be triggered if a parent is the “abuser” or “fails to protect” the child from an abusing parent, third party, or even if a parent cannot control a child’s behaviors causing a child to be a harm to themselves.

Juvenile Dependency cases are nearly exclusively governed by the Welfare and Institutions Code. From the very beginning of a case until the end requires a categorical understanding and precise navigation of the timelines, legislative law, and case law reviewing and interpretating the Welfare and Institutions Code. Having an attorney who understands this niche of law can provide invaluable.

An understanding of how and why CPS investigations begin is critical. In a vast majority of cases, the first step of CPS intervention with a family is an initial investigation to evaluate the underlying facts, circumstances, and history of your family.


There is generally a catalyzing event or sequence of events that trigger a CPS investigation. Event(s) can be reported to CPS and/or law enforcement by third party, including but not limited to, family members, neighbors, an ex-spouse, a teacher, nurse, or doctors. A parent may/may not be aware of the circumstances which cause a report to occur.

There is a wide array of enumerated and trained individuals known as “mandated reporters,” including teachers, nurses, and doctors. An exhaustive list of “mandated reporters” is listed in Cal. Penal. Code section 11165.7. Such individuals are required to report suspected child abuse or neglect abuse to law enforcement, county probation, or a county welfare department (i.e. CPS).

Suspected child abuse and neglect does not mean there is child abuse or neglect present. This is why it is extremely important to prepare yourself for an investigation with social services.

Under more serious circumstances, CPS investigations can commence in parallel with criminal investigations, in which a parent or third party engages in criminal conduct which rises to the level of law enforcement action. This includes, but is not limited to, a law enforcement investigation or an arrest. A law enforcement investigation or arrest may lead to eventual criminal prosecution. If there is potential for criminal prosecution, it is important to understand what your 5th Amendment rights are. Statements made to a CPS social worker or law enforcement can be used against you.

It is important to remember that just because an event or events are reported to CPS, does not mean formal Juvenile Dependency Court proceedings will occur. Just because an individual has contact with law enforcement and/or is arrested, does not mean Juvenile Dependency Court proceedings will occur. Conversely, just because an arrest is not made or criminal proceedings are not initiated, does not mean Juvenile Dependency Court proceedings will not be initiated.

Every single case is different, including individuals involved, history of those individuals (including history with law enforcement and/or social services), facts and circumstances leading to a CPS referral, investigation and/or Court case, are different. It is important to consult with an attorney as soon as possible to evaluate and navigate your case.

Remember, social service’s primary concern is the health, safety, and welfare of minor children. Their focus is on how external and internal factors of a family may have an adverse effect on a child and is the epicenter of a CPS Investigation


The types of abuse CPS can investigate are vast. It can range from general neglect to emotional abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, torture, severe physical abuse, sibling abuse, death of a minor child and more. Furthermore, even if there is only one reported act, CPS has a duty to conduct what is known as a “global assessment,” hence, they will inquire and determine if there are other forms of abuse or neglect occurring in a home.

A more exhaustive categorical list of abuse and/or neglect can be found in Welfare and Inst. Code Section 300. This Code section is an umbrella of abuse and/or neglect which CPS may investigate.


The short answer is no. However, every particular case is different and fact dependent.

When a referral or suspected abuse or neglect is provided to social services, they will first “screen” the information to determine whether a CPS investigation is warranted.

If CPS determines that an investigation is warranted, that simply means they need additional information to determine whether reported act(s) constitute abuse or neglect and are actionable.

It is important to remember that allegations may or may not be accurate, hence the importance to evaluate your family’s situation, consult with a legal professional, and engage with social services in a manner appropriate for your family’s particular circumstances.

CPS is not your enemy. Their job is to conduct an investigation and determine based on their investigation whether the reported abuse/neglect upon a minor(s) is (1) sustained (2) inconclusive or (3) unfounded.

Even if an allegation of abuse or neglect is sustained, or found to be true, this does not necessarily mean that CPS will remove your child(ren) or initiate a Court case. However, the converse is true, if CPS sustains an allegation of abuse and/or neglect, they may remove your (child)ren pending a Court hearing if they determine there is an imminent risk of harm and that no reasonable services can be provided to prevent such removal. Alternatively, they may not remove your child(ren) but may initiate a Court case and provide you notice of a hearing date where a Juvenile Court Judge will determine whether your child(ren) will remain with you or removed from your home.


Call or consult with a dependency attorney immediately. The initial hours and days after removal of a child and/or leading up to your first Dependency Court hearing, known as a “Detention Hearing,” will have a major impact on your Court Proceedings. The reason for this is Juvenile Dependency hearings proceedings can move very quickly as the Legislature has recognized children’s and family’s needs for swift determinations in these cases. Hence the trajectory of your family can be set very early on in these cases. The more swiftly you react to an investigation, removal of your child and/or notice of Court hearing will have a palpable effect on your family and your Court case.


The short answer is yes. Your constitutional rights are implicated when your right to familial association is placed into question. You have substantial due process rights and constitutional protections, including a right to private counsel of your choosing. There are instances where the Court may not allow for a substitution of attorney, and this could be on the eve of trial. This is because the Court will balance your right to an attorney of your choosing with the statutory timeframes and deadlines by which some dependency hearing needs to occur within. Hence, it is very important to contact and seek counsel as soon as possible.


Yes, you can. However, it is important to understand (1) the statutory mechanism by which to seek appellate review of a superior court ruling (whether via “Writ” or “Appeal”), (2) the timeframes in which you need to file notice of writ petition and/or appeal, and (3) the standard of review that the Appellate Court will utilize and (4) determine your chances of success on appeal.

Depending on the type of hearing you are seeking appellate review on, you may need to file a writ or appeal. In determining what type of appellate relief is available to you, you must consult with an attorney immediately. If you do not identify the appropriate type of appellate remedy and do not file a timely notice of appeal and/or writ you may waive your right to appellate review. If you miss your deadline to file it is nearly impossible, except under extremely limited circumstances, to revive your appellate rights. The appellate remedy available is purely statutory and enumerated in the letter of the law.

Furthermore, it is important to determine whether your case is viable for appellate review. On appellate review the court of appeal will not reweigh credibility of a witness, you will generally not be able to present new evidence and/or testimony, and it is not a forum to re-argue your case, i.e., you do not get “a second bite at the apple.” Standards of review for appellate review generally provide great deference to a trial court and a trial court’s ability to evaluate the credibility of evidence and making judicial determinations and rulings.

It is important to speak with an attorney who has training and experience in writs and appeals to (1) ensure you are meeting your statutory deadlines to file notice and/or file documentation in an appeal or writ and (2) determine whether an appeal or writ is viable in your case (3) determine the standard of review and (4) determine the viability of your appeal and/or writ.


We welcome the opportunity to meet with you personally to discuss your situation and answer any question you may have. CPS Investigations and Juvenile Dependency Cases are governed primarily by the Welfare and Institutions Code which is completely disparate from the Family Code and Family Law Proceedings. At the Family Law Group, our attorneys have over 10 years of experience and have assisted hundreds of families in nearly every county within the State of California navigate CPS investigating and formal Juvenile Dependency Court proceedings from inception to appellate review. Please call our juvenile dependency attorneys or contact us online to arrange a consultation.