Child Protection (also known as Child Neglect and Abuse). Parents are in this Court because a petition has been filed, usually by the Department of Human Services (DHS), alleging that they have neglected or abused their child or children. In many of these cases, substance abuse is one of the problems, but there are also a wide range of other problems that bring families into the Court. Michigan’s Child Protection Law governs all Child Neglect and Abuse cases.
Work with families before court involvement: In most cases, DHS has worked with the families, as part of Child Protective Services, to offer services and support that will address issues. If these services are not working out, DHS will then file a petition with the Court alleging specific incidents of Neglect and Abuse. The Court and DHS have very strict rules to follow to keep children safe and promote their well being, while respecting parents’ rights.
When the Court gets involved: When a petition is filed, there are a series of steps that must be followed, within specific time frames. These steps are explained in the
Parent Information Guide. Children may be removed from their parents’ home, or they may remain in the home with their parents. In all cases, the court and DHS monitor the situation and put a plan in place to address the issues that brought the family into Court. When children are removed from their parents’ care, DHS typically works to place them in the care of a relative, often a grandparent or an aunt or uncle. When that is not possible, DHS works to place the children in a licensed foster care home.
The Court and DHS work to keep siblings together, and to have parents visit as much as possible with their children in settings that are as comfortable as possible while the case is going on. Parents are encouraged to participate in all aspects of their children’s lives, including doctor’s appointments, school conferences, and other aspects, unless a different plan is put in place by the Court and DHS.
During the court case: Child Protection cases take up to about a year from the time they enter the Court. Reunification of parents and children is most often the goal, but in some cases, it is necessary for a petition for termination of parental rights to be filed. In that case, parents either agree to release their rights, or go on to a trial where a decision is made whether or not to terminate. When a case enters the Court, an attorney is appointed for each parent who is a “respondent” in the case (that is, each parent who is alleged to have neglected or abused the children). These parents are entitled to speak with their attorney and have their attorney present at Court, and could also retain a different attorney if they prefer. Children are also assigned an attorney. The attorney is called a “Lawyer Guardian Ad Litem” (LGAL) and is required to meet with the children and represent their interests at hearings. In some cases, the Court will also appoint a “Court Appointed Special Advocate” or “CASA”. CASA’s are trained volunteers from the community, with a variety of personal and professional backgrounds, who work with the children and report back to the Court on the children’s needs and status. CASA is a national program that is run locally by LACASA. For
more information about CASA, including contact information. After the initial steps are followed, the court will hold regular review hearings to assess how parents are doing in addressing the issues that brought them to court.
Community collaboration for children: Livingston County’s Child Protection Court works with DHS and other community resources on the Model Court, which is a collaboration that works with a national organization, National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) to make improvements to the system. To learn more about the Model Court.
Livingston County residents and professionals who serve families can support the safety and well being of children in the community by submitting reports to
Child Protective Services if there is suspicion of harm to children.
Referral Process: A referral of child abuse and or neglect can be made by any person including a child, who has reasonable cause to suspect child abuse or neglect. You may report the matter to the Department of Human Services or any law enforcement agency. The information in a CPS (Child Protective Services) complaint needs to be provided by the individual who actually has observed the alleged victim or had contact with the child regarding the complaint.
Contact the CPS Emergency Contact Number 1-855-444-3911 to make a report of suspected child abuse and or neglect:
Department of Human Services
2300 E. Grand River, Ste. 1
Howell MI 48843
Family Treatment Court is a Specialty Court offered by Livingston County Courts. This Court is for parents in Child Neglect and Abuse cases who have substance abuse problems and who meet certain other criteria. Parents participate in frequent court hearings and receive support from a team of professionals to help achieve sobriety and address other issues such as safe parenting.