April is child abuse prevention month, and you are an important part of the prevention plan. Did you know that you have a legal duty to report child dependency, neglect, or abuse? Kentucky law requires any person that knows or has reason to believe that a child has been dependent, neglected, or abused, to report the potential harm to the Kentucky State Police, The Cabinet for Health and Family Services, the Commonwealth Attorney, or the County Attorney. If made in good faith, anyone that makes such a report is immune from civil or criminal liability.
When a report is made, the Cabinet and law enforcement will investigate, and if necessary, file charges against the accused. The Cabinet brings their case before the Family Court for protection of the child. The Commonwealth or County Attorney may file criminal charges that could result in jail time. This article only discusses the child protection process.
The Cabinet, or a private party, may file a Petition for Dependency, Neglect, or Abuse in the County Court where the child resides. The Judge will review the petition, then set an arraignment in Juvenile court within ten days. If the child is under a threat of death, immediate physical or emotional injury, or sexual abuse, a motion for emergency custody may also be filed. If granted, a hearing to determine temporary custody is scheduled within three days and Notice is served upon the Guardians and/or Perpetrator of the child.
The Court then conducts an arraignment where the accused may admit or deny the charges. If denied, the Court will conduct a temporary removal hearing to determine whether the child needs to be removed from the accused while waiting for the final hearing, called an “adjudication”. If the Court finds reasonable grounds, the Court may grant temporary custody to the Cabinet, a family member, or another caretaker until the adjudication.
At the adjudication, evidence and testimony are taken. If the Court finds that dependency, neglect, or abuse is likely to have occurred, it may order the child to be removed, or remain removed, from the home. The Court will also order the Guardian to comply with a reunification case plan recommended by the Cabinet. The plan may involve parenting classes, drug testing, rehabilitation treatment, or other pertinent requirements. Working the case plan is the Guardian’s path toward reinstatement of his or her parental rights. If a parent continuously fails to work their plan, the Court may permanently terminate the parent’s rights.
If served with a petition for dependency, neglect, and abuse, it is imperative that the accused contact an attorney right away to protect their parental and legal rights. It is likely that the Cabinet or law enforcement will want statements from the accused, and the accused may not even know they are being investigated. Their statements could result in self-incrimination. An admission of a crime while testifying in a dependency, neglect, and abuse case can be used against the accused by the Commonwealth in a criminal proceeding.