The child has been removed from your home and you’re in a panic. Remember to request an attorney of both CPS (child protective services) and the court. Even if you cannot afford an attorney, the court is required to provide one for you in cases involving the removal of a child after an investigation by child protective services.

A Preliminary Protective Hearing is generally held within 5-7 days after the dependency petition has been filed by child protective services (CPS). Be sure to ask about the laws in your state to find out the rules regarding the petition and the scheduling of hearings. Prior to the hearing, it is extremely important that you consult with your attorney. There will often be a meeting before the Preliminary Protective Hearing. Bring yourself and bring along with you any other important people, including friends and/or relatives (with whom the child might be placed safely) and witnesses on your behalf. The purpose of this meeting is to try to come to an agreement about the children’s placement, available services which can be provided, and a visitation schedule, if appropriate. The conclusions reached at this meeting will be documented and brought to the court hearing by both your attorney and child protective services. Ultimately, the court will create the orders governing all of these issues and any more deemed appropriate for the case.

If you intend to deny the allegations in the CPS petition, it is likely that the court will schedule a date for an Initial Dependency Hearing. They’re generally set within 3-weeks (again, check your state’s laws). The court will make a ruling that may include declaring the children dependent and/or require mediation or additional conferencing.

If your child has been adjudicated a dependent, the court will hold periodic review hearings, generally every 6-months. These hearings are intended update the status of the case and monitor the progress of the parents in correcting any issues found to exist which prompted CPS to remove the child from the home. Additionally, the court reviews the placement arrangements of the child and rules on whether or not continued placement is necessary.

At this hearing, the court also reviews the child’s placement and placement and decides if its continued involvement is necessary. The court is also required to schedule an Initial Permanency Hearing if the child has been in placement for an extended period of time – usually 1-year. At this hearing a determination is made regarding whether or not the child may safely be returned to parents or if parental rights may be terminated.

Keep in mind that there are a lot of horror stories out there about CPS and child protective services. If your situation resulted in CPS removing your children from your care, you must maintain a cool head and act quickly to ensure your rights – first by finding an attorney. Your failure to act quickly and stay on top of the case and correct any issues could result in your child being lost permanently to adoption, other long-term guardianship, or other long-term care options.