Social workers are assigned by DSHS. The Court has no control over which social worker is assigned to your case and cannot order DSHS to assign you a new social worker.
Social workers have heavy case loads and are often in “the field”. Do not expect your call to be returned immediately. However, you should be politely persistent with your social worker. If your social worker is not responding to you at all, contact your attorney.
It is important for you to act immediately and attend any court hearings. If you qualify, you will be assigned an attorney to work with you on your case. Your attorney can advise you on what options may be available to you and assist you in making decisions on how to approach your case.
It is important to stay in touch with your attorney and your caseworker. Stay in touch with your social worker even if you are angry with him/her for taking your children away. Attend all visitations. Ask questions if you are not clear on what you need to be doing. Focus on what is important – reuniting with your children.
The social worker has the following duties:
1. To arrange visitation if your child is placed out of your custody;
2. To provide referrals for court-ordered services and to help pay for services, to the extent funding is available;
3. To provide bus passes upon your request, if funding is available;
4. To prepare a report for the Court every 6 months outlining your progress and the plan for the next 6 months;
5. To return your phone calls and answer your letters; and
6. To see you personally when you have set up an appointment.
"CASA" stands for Court Appointed Special Advocate. Cowlitz County CASA is a 501(3)(c) non-profit corporation tasked with being the voice of abused and neglected children in the dependency court system. Every dependent child in Cowlitz County is assigned a CASA through our program.
The CASA's role is to interview the parties, the children and look into the case and report facts back to the court regarding what is in the child's best interests. The CASA remains in place throughout the duration of each dependency case. Most CASA volunteers are NOT lawyers, but are allowed by law to present information to the Court to assist the Judge in making good decisions for each child.
You can find out more about the Cowlitz County CASA program at their website: http://www.cowlitzcountycasa.org/
The Court cannot give you legal advice, however, the Court will define what services you are required to participate in, such as drug treatment, parenting classes, etc. At this point, your duties include the following:
- Contact your social worker on a regular basis so that you can get referrals for services.
- Participate in court-ordered services. If you have been ordered to provide random U/As, remember that a missed U/A is a “dirty” U/A. You are responsible to give your social worker proof that you have done your services.
- If your child is placed out of your home, you must attend scheduled visitation.
- Follow all other court orders. Other orders may include signing releases for your children’s medical care, obeying no-contact orders, attending your child’s doctor visits, etc.
- Contact your attorney if you have legal questions or if you are not receiving referrals or visitation. Contact your attorney before every hearing to update him/her on your progress. You will receive a written court report before each hearing. If you do not agree with what is written in the report, you should make an appointment with your attorney so that you and your attorney can prepare a written response to the court report before the next scheduled hearing.
- Maintain contact with the Court Appointed Special Advocate assigned to your case. The CASA program is generally appointed to represent the best interests of all children in Dependency cases. Your child may also, in some cases, be appointed their own attorney.
- Contact your attorney, CASA and your social worker immediately when you have a new address or phone number. If these people do not have current contact information, they may not be able to reach you to let you know about important information in your case or about court hearings that are scheduled.
- Attend scheduled meetings and court hearings about your children. Sometimes, these meetings and hearings are scheduled on short notice, but it is important for you to attend.
- To meet with you to explain the dependency process;
- To appear in court with you at all hearings;
- To explain court-ordered services; and
- To ensure that your legal rights are protected.
- If you are not receiving referrals for services, or if you are not receiving visitation, your attorney may file a motion with the Court for review of services or visitation. Your attorney cannot help you with these issues unless you are in regular contact with him/her.
If a dependency is established regarding your child, the State is required to attempt to reunify you and your child. Therefore, you will be entitled to services and, in most cases, visitation. Your efforts will play the most important part in the ultimate outcome of reunification. Many children are not reunified with their parents, but you can be successful if you make a commitment and stick to that commitment.
The answer depends on the circumstances that led to CPS involvement, how quickly you get involved in services, and whether you are consistent with services and visitation. There are federal guidelines which require the State to file for termination of your parental rights if you do not make progress with your services (unless you and the State agree to other custody arrangements).
Parent’s attorneys do not work for DSHS nor for the Court. Court appointed attorneys are paid to represent you through the Washington Office of Public Defense. Attorneys and clients have a confidential relationship, which means that generally they may not disclose information relating to their representation of you without your consent. Of course, in order to advocate and negotiate for you, your attorney may discuss your case with social workers, the Attorney General’s office and other professionals. Attorneys are bound by Rules of Professional Conduct, and these rules apply whether attorneys are paid by a government agency or by you.