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Juvenile Court Proceedings
A.Authority: ORS 419B. 115 (dependency); ORS 419C.285 (delinquency, criminal--dispositional stage only)
The State of Oregon may obtain legal custody of a child if the child commits an act which would be a crime of they were adult, or if the child is subject to abuse, neglect, or abandonment by the parent or custodian. The state may also obtain custody of run-aways. When the state obtains custody, it almost always places the child with State Office for Services to Children and Families (SCF, formerly CSD), although it does have authority to place the child with a grandparent, blood relative or other appropriate person. SCF, by statute, must now take reasonable efforts to give notice to relatives and to favor relative placements over stranger placements. However, in the past this preference has often been ignored. Sometimes no contact is made with the extended family. Other times, SCF has a built-in prejudice against extended family because they fear the extended family will take the side of the former custodial parent and interfere with their efforts.
Juvenile Court proceedings are usually open to the public, particularly in noncriminal matters. See Section IV above for rights of intervention and limited participation by psychological parents. Apart from those rights, the court is not required to hear from an extended family member unless he or she is called as a witness by the state (through SCF) or a party (mother, father or the child--through their attorneys). Persons interested in obtaining or maintaining their relationship with a child in the custody of the state should stay in close contact with the following individuals:
1.SCF caseworker (consult phonebook for branch office nearest your home)
2.Juvenile Court counselor (Multnomah County): 248-3460
3.Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA)--(In Multnomah County: 253- CASA) an advocate appointed by the court to look after the best interests of the child and report information to the court. Check with the Juvenile Court counselor for the name of the CASA, if one exists.
4.Child's attorney--a court may, but is not required to appoint an attorney for the child. Again, check with the court, through the Juvenile Court counselor, for the name of the attorney.
5.Attorneys for mother and father--again, check with the court to get in contact with mother or father's attorney.
6.Citizens Review Boards (CRBs)--CRBs are volunteer panels established under state law assigned to review SCIF cases approximately every six months. CRBs are volunteer citizens. While they do not participate directly in Juvenile Court proceedings, they prepare reports and make recommendations regarding whether SCIF is on track in its placement and whether the child needs or is receiving appropriate representation from the CASA or attorney. Multnomah County CRB: 731-3007.
D.Guardianship Without Termination of Parental Rights
Under a 1995 law, the Juvenile Court may appoint a permanent guardian for a child as an alternative to a formal termination of parental rights. ORS 419.521(2). Although parental rights would not be terminated, the parent could never have physical custody restored. The terms of contact between the child and the parent would be up to the Court and the guardian. (See also Section V.D on page 6 re: effects of adoption and termination of parental rights.)
2.If you do not believe the child's interests are being adequately represented, you may ask the court, through the Juvenile Court counselor, to appoint an attorney for the child.
3.It is important in Juvenile Court that your primary goal be the best interests of the child. The court, and particularly SCF, are extremely wary where an extended family member strongly takes the position of the parent who has lost custody. In such a case, SCF feels that the extended family member is interfering with their attempts to rehabilitate the parent, and SCF fears that the extended family member may not be able to protect the child. In some cases, it may be appropriate to strongly advocate the position of the parent who has lost custody. In other cases, it may be more appropriate to give emotional (and sometimes financial) support to the parent, without "taking their side."
4.The state provides a foster care subsidy to children placed with strangers, but in many cases denies that subsidy to children placed with extended family members. An extended family member who receives physical custody of the child should make every effort to seek any foster care subsidy which may be available (ADC--welfare; Title IVE).
Oregon Courts decide child custody when the parents cannot. The court considers the best interests of the child when making a ruling. Child support payments are based on an income shares model. Each parent is required to contribute financially to their child's upbringing and each person's share is calculated in proportion to their income. Each parent must provide copies of his or her W-2s to verify income. Along with the income statements, the court considers each parent's ability to borrow funds, earning capacity, and the child's needs. The court may order the parent paying child support to buy a life insurance policy and keep it in force so that the child will still be supported if the parent dies before he or she reaches the age of majority.
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