Children & Youth
Parents accused by Pennsylvania’s Children and Youth Agency of neglect or abuse could have their children taken away. For most parents, this is their worst nightmare. If you are being investigated by CYS, we can help you defend yourself, assert your parental rights and fight for your kids’ best interests.
Attorney Michael Shotto Jr., is a former dependency master who now defends parents in children and youth hearings. He will explain your next steps if your children have been removed from your home.
PA Child Protective Services’ Actions — And When They Go Too Far
There are four levels of action CPS can take against a parent:
Informal Involvement. Prior to trying to remove a child from the home, the Agency may offer supportive services to address its concerns. The parents’ decision to accept these services is voluntary.
Voluntary Placement Agreement. The Agency and the parents agree to place the child in another home for up to 30 days while the parents address the Agency’s concerns. The child may live with a relative, family friend or foster parent during this time.
Emergency Shelter Care. In cases where the Agency is unable or unwilling to work voluntarily with the parents, it seeks an ex-parte hearing, or a hearing in which the case worker goes before a judge without the parents being present. If the judge agrees to issue an order removing the child from the home, he or she will schedule a Shelter Care hearing no more than 72 hours later so the parents can learn why their children have been taken and have the chance to respond to the charges.
Shelter Care. After the Shelter Care hearing, the judge will issue a ruling to determine whether the child will remain in shelter care or be returned to the parents’ custody.
If your children are not returned home after a Shelter Care Hearing, the Agency will move for Dependency. This process can last 6 months or more.
Termination of Parental Rights & Adoption
Under the current law, if you are not successful in having your children returned to you within 12 consecutive months, or if the children have been removed for 18 of the previous 22 months, the Agency can move to terminate your parental rights. This would free your children for adoption by the Foster Family. This cannot be un-done. This is permanent. Your compliance, along with competent and effective representation is necessary to ensure that your children do come home.
Remember, CPS agents have heavy caseloads and sometimes make mistakes. They may accuse a parent of things that the facts do not support. In other cases, protocols that require mandatory reporting to CPS do not make sense in every context.
Finally, applying child welfare laws to the real world can be highly subjective. Our attorneys know the law thoroughly and can tell when CPS’s actions were not warranted. We will argue before the court why your family should be kept together.
Fight To Keep Your Family Together
If CPS has taken action, there is no time to lose. Call 570-820-9800 for a free consultation with one of our attorneys over the phone. You can also reach us using our online form. Our office is in Forty Fort.