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Representation in Dependency

JCP attorneys represent indigent parents in dependency proceedings in Juvenile Court in Allegheny County. The Juvenile Act is the statute which establishes the authority of the Juvenile Court to hear dependency cases. There are four types of dependency hearings defined in the Juvenile Act and they are as follows:

  • An informal hearing commonly referred to as a shelter hearing which must take place within 72 hours of a child's removal from his/her parent. Only OCYFS is authorized to remove the child and only if they believe the child's safety and well-being are in imminent risk.

  • A Petition hearing whereby the petitioner alleges that the child is dependent as defined in the Juvenile Act. The majority of petitions filed allege that the child is without proper parental care and control necessary for the child's physical, mental, or emotional health or morals.

  • A Permanency hearing where the court is required to review the status of a dependent child's case. The court is required to review the permanency goal for the child, the progress being made toward attaining the goal, and whether the child's placement continues to be best suited to meet the child's needs.

  • An Aggravated Circumstances Petition whereby the petitioner alleges one of the grounds for aggravated circumstances as defined in the Juvenile Act. If the court makes the factual finding that an aggravated circumstance exists, then the court must decide whether reasonable efforts to reunify the family shall be made.

Representation in Termination of Parental Rights Proceedings

JCP attorneys represent indigent parents in termination of parental rights proceedings in Juvenile Court in Allegheny County. The Adoption Act is the statute which establishes the authority of the court to hear termination of parental rights petitions. When a petition to terminate parental rights is filed, there are two proceedings which take place. The initial proceeding requires the parent to appear and give notice as to whether he/she intends to contest the termination of his/her parental rights or not. If the parent chooses to contest the termination of his/her parental rights, he/she "enters" his/her "contest" and the court schedules a hearing to receive testimony concerning the allegations contained in the petition requesting the termination of the parental rights.

Appeals of Indicated ChildLines

The JCP will review, assess and when appropriate appeal indicated ChildLines for existing JCP clients. The Child Protective Services Law is a reporting statute which requires certain individuals defined as "mandated reporters" to report suspected child abuse to the Department of Public Welfare (DPW). Anyone, however, may report suspected child abuse to the DPW. Once a report of suspected child abuse is received by the DPW, the local agency (Allegheny County OCYFS) is to conduct an investigation and determine the final outcome status of the report which will either be "Founded," "Indicated," or "Unfounded."

Birth Parent Mentoring Initiative

The JCP has developed a proactive program designed to assist young mothers at risk of entering the Juvenile Court system. The initiative matches young mothers with mentors. Each mentor works with only one young mother and serves as both a role model and helper. The mentor helps the young mother with obtaining life skills and needed support services.