By Susan Block
A person suspects a child is being abused. They call the child abuse hotline. The Missouri Children’s Division responds to the call, investigates, and finds reason to believe the child is being abused or neglected. The first contact parents may have with the Juvenile Court is a hearing held within 72 hours of their child’s being removed from their custody.
That first court appearance is called a protective custody hearing. This hearing is a critical stage of the legal proceedings, and it requires legal representation.
The judge must determine, based upon the evidence presented at that hearing, whether the child should remain in protective custody or if the child can be safely returned to their parents.
At the protective custody hearing, a representative of the Children’s Division will present evidence which may include medical records, including an affidavit from a doctor trained in child protection who believes the child has been subjected to abuse or neglect while in the parents’ care.
Given the extremely high risks involved, parents facing a protective custody hearing should meet with an experienced lawyer who has an understanding of juvenile law. Obtaining good advice ahead of the hearing and good representation during the hearing is essential to getting a fair decision.