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Who else participates in CINC court hearings?


Court Process & Legal Rights Guide For Foster Caregivers | Table of Contents


CINC court hearings are not open to the public. They involve “legal parties,” who are the parents, children, and the State. They also involve DCFS case workers and CASAs. In addition to you, the following individuals may attend a CINC court hearing:

Children

If the child is 12 years of age or older, they must be present at the hearing unless their presence is waived by the court upon motion (request) of the child’s attorney. If the child is below 12 years of age, they have to be present at the hearing if the child’s attorney or judge requests that they attend. In most cases, it is recommended that the child attend hearings involving their case. Sometimes special arrangements might need to be made for the child based on the circumstances of the child and/or the case (i.e., interpretation, translation, and/or language assistance services and/or accommodations for disabilities or, if the hearing may expose them to adverse experiences, use of video testimony or special entrances and exits or limiting the child’s presence at the hearing, etc.). If so, it would be helpful for you to make these suggestions to the DCFS case worker prior to the hearing.

Parents

All legal and biological parents of the child should be present at all CINC hearings involving their child. However, in some instances, parents may not be present for various reasons.

Children’s Attorney

An attorney is appointed by the court for each child involved in a CINC case, and in general they are to represent the expressed wishes of the child. This means the child’s attorney advocates for what the child wants rather than what others may regard as the child’s best interest. Usually, one attorney will represent all siblings involved in the same case. Different attorneys may be appointed when the children have conflicting interests that are unresolvable. These attorneys advise children of their legal rights, represent children at hearings, and help children present evidence and testimony to the court. Although many children’s attorneys contact the foster caregiver to introduce themselves and/or ask questions about the child, they do not have a legal obligation to contact the foster caregiver. However, the child’s attorney does have a legal obligation to contact the child. For this reason, the child’s attorney may have to contact the foster caregiver to make those arrangements. For laws and rules governing children’s attorneys, please refer to: Rules of the Supreme Court of Louisiana, Rule XXXIII, Special Rules for Child Abuse and Neglect Cases, and Louisiana Children’s Code Article 607.

Parent’s Attorney

A separate attorney or curator (an attorney appointed by the court if the parent is an absentee and cannot be located) should be present at all CINC hearings to protect the interests of the parent even if the parent is not present, unless the parent waives the right or the parent is unidentified. These attorneys advocate for parents with courts and parties and advise parents of their legal rights. For laws and rules governing parent attorneys, please refer to: Louisiana Children’s Code Article 608.

Judge

A judge presides over the CINC case to make rulings and issue orders and judgments based on the law and evidence presented to the court.

DCFS Case Worker

At least one DCFS case worker will be present at each hearing. Their role is to provide testimony to the court about the investigation and assessment of safety, permanency, and well-being of the child and family.

Attorney for the State

The Assistant District Attorney (ADA) and Bureau of General Counsel (Attorney for DCFS) represent the State and DCFS in CINC cases. They are responsible for filing all legal documents in the case on behalf of the State.

Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA)

The court may appoint a CASA for the child. CASAs are trained volunteers who: (1) provide independent, factual information to the court regarding the child and case; (2) advocate on behalf of the child as to what they perceive to be in the best interest of the child; and (3) monitor the CINC proceedings and advise and assist the court in its determination of the best interest of the child. If appointed, the CASA volunteer will meet with the child at least monthly. CASA volunteers routinely file written reports and recommendations with the judge and may be called as witnesses in hearings. Ordinarily, the same CASA volunteer remains with the child until the case is closed by the court. They are immensely helpful avenues of support and communication for the child and foster caregiver. For laws governing CASA, please refer to: Louisiana Children’s Code Articles 424-426.

Relatives and Other Individuals

The law allows persons to Petition the court for custody of a child and/or to intervene in the CINC proceeding, but only in certain situations and only at specific times. In such cases, the judge may allow those persons to attend the hearing. For governing laws, please refer to: Louisiana Children’s Code Articles 622, 627, 631, 681, 683, and 707.

Court Staff

Authorized officers of the court as designated by the judge may be present at the hearing.

Bailiff

The bailiff is a uniformed Deputy with security or other court staff who assist the judge in administering the court proceedings. The bailiff is a good point of contact and may be able to relay questions and important information regarding emergencies or situations that occur as hearings are being conducted.

Witnesses

Individuals who have been called as witnesses may be present at the hearing. Some witnesses may include mental health professionals, medical providers, first responders, school personnel, etc. However, the judge may order that they only remain in the courtroom when they are called to testify.