Learn about the Child Requiring Assistance case process

Find out what happens after you receive notice that a Child Requiring Assistance (CRA) Application has been filed and what the court process will be like.

Notice and summons

Once someone files a CRA application, a notice that the application has been filed and the date for the preliminary hearing will be sent to you, your child, the Department of Children and Families (DCF) (the state's child protection agency), and the Department of Youth Services (DYS). 

If the clerk determines that your child is unlikely to come to court after receiving the notice of the preliminary hearing, the clerk may issue a summons for the child to appear at the preliminary hearing. If your child doesn't appear at the preliminary hearing after receiving the notice, a summons will be issued. A copy of the summons will be sent to the child’s parent, legal guardian, or custodian. Notice will also be sent to the child’s parent, legal guardian or custodian if he or she did not file the application.

Warrant of Protective Custody

If your child doesn't appear at the preliminary hearing after receiving the summons, the judge may issue a Warrant of Protective Custody. A Warrant of Protective Custody orders a law enforcement officer to pick up your child and bring them to the court for a hearing. At the hearing, the judge will decide whether to release your child to you or place your child in the custody of DCF for 15 days. The order may be extended twice for a total of 45 days. The probation office will make an immediate inquiry for a recommendation during the preliminary hearing.

If you or a member of your family have American Indian or Native American heritage, your must notify the Clerk-Magistrate’s office. The tribe must be notified if the court intends to give someone else custody over your objection.

Immediate inquiry

A probation officer will interview you and your child about the information in the CRA application. The probation officer will also ask you to provide information about your income to determine whether you and your child are indigent. If your child is indigent, an attorney will be appointed to represent your child in the case. If you are indigent, an attorney will be appointed to represent you if the judge considers removing the child from your custody.

Preliminary hearing

CRA cases are confidential and closed to the public. Parents, attorneys representing the parties, the probation officer, a clerk to record the hearing, and the judge may all be present for the court hearing. 

At the hearing before the court, the probation officer will make one of 3 recommendations:

  • That the court should dismiss the case for lack of “probable cause”
  • That the court should refer the child and parent with their agreement to a probation officer for informal assistance 
  • That the court should accept the Application for CRA and schedule the fact-finding hearing

If the case is dismissed, the judge will issue an expungement order requiring the clerk to destroy all of the papers in the courts files relating to the case and any records that may exist at the Department of Criminal Justice.

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