DEPENDENCY


Pima County Juvenile Court became a Model Court site in 1997. With the assistance of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ), changes in the way dependency matters were processed led to statewide best practices guidelines as well as changes in the Arizona Statutes. A dependency exists when a parent is unable or unwilling to exercise care, custody or control of a minor. When the dependency petition is filed with the juvenile court, it becomes a dependency case. Definitions of the different types of child abuse and neglect can be located in the Arizona Revised Statutes, 8-201. “Front loading” the system (including an initial court hearing just 5 7 business days after the children’s removal by Child Protective Services) assists parents in obtaining services early in their dependency cases to promote children reunifying with their parents when possible, and to find permanent placements in a timely manner. Nearly 70 % of all dependency petitions filed in Pima County alleged parental drug or alcohol abuse. The Dependency Unit of the Pima County Juvenile Court assists the Court with compliance with Arizona Revised Statutes, 8-824, and the Federal Adoptions and Safe Families Act (ASFA). Dependency petitions are filed either through the Attorney General’s Office as the legal representative of Child Protective Services or through a private petitioner filed through the Clerk of the Court. 93 % of these dependency petitions in 2010 were filed by Child Protective Services. Each petition runs through a course of multiple hearings resulting in either family reunification, guardianship, adoption by a relative or non-relative or another permanent plan living arrangement. Depending on the age of the children, a permanency hearing can be held at 6 or 12 months from the removal of the children, which has resulted in greatly reducing the number of children placed in foster or group home care with an significant increase in placing children with relative placements over the past several years. If the child is under three the permanency hearing is held at 6 months. If the child is over 3, the permanency hearing is held at 12 months. Pima County Juvenile Court offers services to the families involved with a dependency petition: court appointed counsel if the parents qualify; different types of mediations throughout the case; Family Drug Court, and Court Appointed Special Advocates.