If my family has an abuse or neglect case in Family Court, do I have to go into foster care?

No – there are many cases where children stay home with their parents or guardians while their case is going on in court.

Sometimes an ACS caseworker files a case because she thinks there are problems with the way the parents are caring for the children, but doesn’t think the children are in danger if they stay at home. In a case like that, the caseworker’s lawyer would ask the judge to order that the children can stay home while the case is going on if there parents follow certain conditions, such as making sure to send the children to school every day, and letting the caseworker visit the home on a regular basis.

In some other cases, the ACS caseworker may believe that the children aren’t safe at home and the caseworker’s lawyer may convince the judge on the first day of the case that the children are at very serious risk of harm and need to be removed from their home. Even if the judge decides that, and orders that the children be removed, the parents’ lawyers and the child’s law guardian have a right to have a hearing in three days to present the judge with more information so she will change her mind and send the children home. Sometimes the judge does change her mind and send the children home. The neglect case still goes on, but the children are at home during it.

Another thing that sometimes happens is that a judge may decide that the children aren’t safe at home at the beginning of the case, but weeks or months later the parents may have been involved in services and gotten some help. Sometimes the parent’s lawyer or the law guardian may ask the judge to reconsider and send the children home based on the improvement in how things are going, and sometimes the judge may just decide on her own that things have changed enough for it to be safe for the children to go home on certain conditions (like the parents continuing to go to their programs). The Family Court case still goes on, but the children get to be at home while it does.