What To Expect

Dependency Petitions

Dependency Abuse & Neglect Petitions

Dependency petitions in Pennsylvania are generally filed when allegations of abuse or neglect are made. If the county agency feels the parents are unable to care for their children, the file a dependency petition. A dependency petition alleges that the children have no parent able to provide for the care of the child(ren) and thus, the child(ren) are “dependent” upon the County, thus a “dependency” petition. If the county agency has taken a baby away with an ex parte court order and/or an informal hearing the county agency is supposed to file a dependency petition within 48 hours. A hearing on the dependency petition is supposed to be scheduled within 10 days of the filing of the dependency petition. With certain exceptions, a hearing is supposed to be held at least every 10 days until the dependency petition is determined. Parents are supposed to receive notice of the informal hearing and any other hearings. Although rarely enforced, there is a provision that requires release of the child back to the parent if, through no fault of the child or parent, the hearing is not held within 10 days. Many court appointed and private attorneys either do not know of this provision or are unwilling to pursue release of the child because it necessitates an appeal to Superior court. The informal hearing as well as the dependency hearing itself can be heard by a Master or by a judge. The informal hearing is sometimes referred to as the shelter hearing or detention hearing.