Having the Office of Children, Youth and Families (OCYF) involved with your child can be a scary experience for any parent. So why are Pennsylvania courts involved in some cases but not others? That can depend on a number of factors and the specifics of your case.
Although OCYF has no legal authority to force services on a family in Pennsylvania, they do have both the obligation and authority to initiate court proceedings (i.e. file a “dependency petition”). If the family does not accept the services OCYF recommends, or, accepts the services but fails to make adequate progress, OCYF may file a dependency petition to begin court involvement. The petition must allege facts to support an adjudication of dependency under one of ten enumerated subsections within the applicable statute.
If the court grants the dependency petition, it may then order the family to participate in the OCYF recommended services. This occurs only after the parent and child are provided with a judicial hearing, as required by the due process clause. If dependency is found, the court may permit the child to remain with the parent or guardian, place the child in a foster home, or arrange some other living arrangement (such as placement in a group home). A review hearing is held every three to six months to review the family’s progress and make sure the child has all of their needs met. If you have questions regarding custody of your dependent child, call us today to consult with our experienced family law attorneys!