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• Since 2008, Terry Chucas has owned and operated an independent
law office in San Diego, California. There, Terry Chucas represents
families in dependency court appeals.
Dependency proceedings take place when there is reason to believe
that a child is experiencing abuse or is at risk for abuse. This
typically results in an investigation by a social worker, who
interviews the child as well as others who may have knowledge of
the situation. After these conversations, the social worker may
request that the court open a protective services case.
If the social worker believes the child to be in immediate danger, he
or she may move to remove the child from the home. Removal
requires the court to hold an initial child placement hearing within
one day, while non-removal allows for 15 days before a hearing
occurs. At such hearings, a judge determines whether the child may
• Some time after this determination, a jurisdiction hearing occurs at which
the judge assesses whether allegations against the parents are true. If he or
she determines that the child is not safe, the child becomes a dependency of
the court. This means that the court will make decisions about the child's
care, whether or not the judge decides to place the child at home or
The jurisdiction hearing precedes disposition, at which the judge devises a
reunification plan. This plan includes where the child will live as well as any
actions that the parent needs to take to bring the child home. Throughout
the process, the parent may appeal those decisions with which he or she
If the child is placed outside of the home, the judge will order reunification
services that the parent must complete to bring the child home. Meanwhile,
review hearings take place every six months to assess whether the child can
return home as well as whether the parent can continue to receive