Q: The mother of my child is hiding a wanted homicide suspect and has drugs out in the open. CYF goes in takes custody of my daughter. THE CYF lady calls me a day later tells me there is a shelter hearing. At the shelter hearing CYF said they don’t recommend me because my background checks haven’t come back yet. The judge awards me physical and legal custody anyway now they are basically bullying me into visits after mom threatened to take my daughter. Also, they are saying I have to do classes a “community conference” drug tests and a few other things. Do I have rights as a parent and person or do I have to go along with the show also can I fight so my daughter doesn’t go back to mom or is it up to CYF. (North Braddock, PA)
A: You absolutely have rights as a parent in the juvenile dependency action. You will do better with an attorney asserting those rights for you at the next shelter hearing or review hearing. There are not many attorneys who handle juvenile dependency but there are a few who know that system well. You may want to find one. If you are drug free let them test you as much as they want. Unless your clearances come back with child sex offenses or child lines, as a biological parent, you cannot be denied custody due to a criminal history. As pointed out by my colleague, you can file for custody as well. You can always go through Generations but you may want to initiate Family Division custody with a motion to your assigned judge.