Pennsylvania juvenile dependency actions are brought by the Office of Children, Youth and Families (CYF) when it is suspected that a child may be the victim of abuse, neglect or is having problems at home. A child may also be removed from his or her parents if it is determined that the parents are unable to provide for the child’s needs physically, emotionally or educationally. This occurs when a child habitually misses school, runs away from home or refuses to listen to a parent’s reasonable directives.
The Pittsburgh juvenile dependency lawyers at McCarthy McDonald Schulberg & Joy advocate for parents who risk losing custody of their children in dependency matters. We are uniquely qualified to handle dependency issues. Attorneys Carol S. McCarthy and Mary K. McDonald both have extensive experience working with CYF, juvenile law and dependency cases.
Ms. McDonald worked at CYF from 1973 to 1979, working with dependent children and their families initially as a caseworker and ultimately as the agency’s first staff attorney. In 1982, she was appointed as a hearing officer in the Family Division of Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas, where she conducted thousands of hearings establishing, modifying and enforcing child support and spousal support.
Ms. McCarthy has handled cases involving abused and neglected children. She has been appointed to represent children in dependency matters. Further, she has represented parents who have been involved in dependency actions in juvenile court, whether as a petitioner or a respondent. Ms. McCarthy has also represented people who have been determined to have abused a child in their appeal from that finding in order to have it expunged from the official record, as such a finding bars a person from many areas of employment.
Dependency cases are highly sensitive. Often, parents are given minimal notice that their children will be removed from their care, and they have little time to resolve the issues that led to the action. Immediate action is required.
Once a protective custody order is issued, a child can be held for 72 hours. At that point, a “shelter care” hearing must be held to determine if the child should continue to be held in the emergency placement. If the court determines that the child should continue to be held out of the home, an adjudication hearing will be scheduled to determine if the child is “dependent” and is not receiving proper parental care. The court can determine that the child may remain under parental care with supervision or may remove the child from parental care and transferred to temporary legal custody.
Parents have the right to legal counsel at a shelter hearing and an adjudication hearing. We are committed to helping parents who find themselves in this situation. Our lawyers’ experience working on the “other side” of these cases provides us valuable insight into the state’s approach and how to develop a strong case on our clients’ behalf.