How Child Protective Hearings Work
Typical child protective cases go through several kinds of hearings—starting with either an emergency “1027” or “1028” hearing if ACS decides a child faces imminent risk in the home, or a less-hurried intake hearing, if the agency isn’t looking to make a removal.
Later, there may be a “fact-finding” hearing (the equivalent of a trial) and, if a judge determines that the allegations of neglect or abuse are true, a “dispositional” hearing, to decide what happens next. If a child is placed in foster care, the court is legally required to hold a “permanency” hearing within eight months, and every six months thereafter, to discuss the family’s progress and determine the best long-term plan for the child. And if a child has been in care for 15 of the last 22 months, the foster care agency is required to file for a “termination of parental rights,” or TPR, hearing.
The court may hold any number of conferences or hearings to settle interim issues like visitation schedules and service plans. Kids’ and parents’ attorneys might file motions to get their clients anything from therapy to eyeglasses, or to push a foster care agency to explore placing a child with a particular relative.
By law, only emergency removal, permanency, and TPR hearings must start within certain time frames. Fact-finding can happen any time, with the confusing and legally ambiguous result that parents may be participating in services—and kids may be in foster care—long before a judge has found anyone guilty. The time it takes to get to fact-finding and disposition hearings are often used as proxy measures of court efficiency.
Citywide, Family Courts have reduced the time in which cases reach disposition by close to 25% in recent years—down from 10.5 months in 2006 to 8 months in 2014. The Kings County Family Court remains an outlier, with median time to disposition at 11 months.