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Types of Court Hearings

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The Shelter Care Hearing
This court hearing is where the judge listens to people who know about the problem in your family and want you to be safe. These people, such as the DCFS investigator, will tell the judge why you were removed from your home and will ask the judge to decide if you should stay in DCFS care or return home. The judge may ask questions. It is important to remember that you can talk to the judge if you want to. Always tell the truth to the judge. At the Shelter Care Hearing, the judge may ask a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) or a lawyer or attorney called a Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) to help you. The GAL or CASA will know about the law and why you are in court. The GAL or CASA will look out for your interests. Always tell the truth to your GAL or CASA.
 
The Adjudicatory Hearing (sometimes called a trial)
At this hearing, the judge listens to what people say and decides if you were abused, neglected or dependent. Your family will be at this hearing and so will your caseworker. Your GAL or CASA will be here and should explain anything you don't understand.
 
The Dispositional Hearing
The judge decides if it is safe for you to return home, stay in DCFS care or live with another guardian while your parents get help with their problems. The judge may say that your parents need to go to counseling, parenting training or need other things to help them take good care of you and keep you safe. The judge and your caseworker want to help your family get back together. They do not want to keep your family apart for a long time, but they want you to be safe. Your parents also have a caseworker assigned to help them work in changing their behavior and making your home safe.
 
Administrative Case Review (ACR)
This is a meeting where a DCFS Administrative Case Reviewer reviews the Service Plan to see whether you and your parents are getting the help you need. The Reviewer checks whether your parents are following the list of steps in the Service Plan and are making positive changes in their behavior. The ACR is held every six months and in most cases you may be present at all these meetings.
 
Permanency Hearings
These are court hearings with the judge held every six months to see how things are going and whether your parents are making positive changes in their behavior. These meetings will occur as long as you are in DCFS care. Your parents will have to show the judge or Hearing Officer at these permanency hearings that they have cooperated with the caseworker, completed all the steps listed in the Service Plan and made positive changes in their behavior before the judge decides whether it is safe for you to go home. The judge will want to make sure that it is safe for you to return home. If your home is still not safe for you, the judge will also make the decision about a plan for your living situation. The Service Plan will also include things that are important for you to do, like attend school, participate in counseling, follow the rules where you are living and participate in other activities.