Child Dependency Actions


Child Abuse Reports

Child dependency in California involves children who have been abused, neglected or abandoned. California Welfare and Institutions Code Section 300 lists the various charges that can be brought against a parent or guardian in a child dependency case.

What is California Child Dependency?

Under Section 300, when a minor is neglected, abused, or abandoned by a parent or guardian, the court may take steps to make the minor a “dependent” of the court. When a minor becomes a dependent of the court, the court has the authority to make decisions about parental rights, family reunification, foster care, child placement, family treatment and services, adoption, etc.

What actions by the parent or guardian can trigger a child dependency action by a California court?

Several actions can cause a court to take steps to make a minor a dependent of the court:

  • Non-accidental physical harm. The child has suffered or is at risk of suffering physical harm at the hands of their parent or guardian. The harm must not be the result of an accident. Factors to determine the risk of physical harm include a prior non- accidental injury caused by the parent or guardian, a history of repeated physical harm inflicted on the child or the child’s siblings, and “other actions” that imply that the child is at risk.

  • Failure to provide adequate care and supervision. The child has suffered or is at risk of suffering from physical harm or illness because the parent or guardian fails to provide adequate care and supervision. This can happen when a parent is either unwilling or unable to provide food, clothing, shelter, and sufficient supervision for the child. This can also happen when the parent fails to oversee and control a person that takes care of the child. A parent can also fail to provide regular care for a child due to a developmental disability, mental illness, or substance abuse.

  • Emotional damage. The child is suffering or at risk of suffering severe emotional damage. To assess the risk, the court may look at evidence of depression, withdrawal, severe anxiety, and aggressive behavior in a child caused by a guardian or parent’s actions of lack thereof.

  • Sexual abuse. The child has been sexually abused or is at risk of being sexually abused by a parent, guardian, or member of the household.
    • “Severe physical damage” to a child under the age of five. Under Section 300, severe physical abuse is defined as:
    • A single act of abuse that if left without medical treatment would cause permanent disfigurement, permanent physical disability or death,
    • A single act of sexual abuse that causes severe trauma, bleeding, deep bruising, or swelling,
    • More than one act of physical abuse that causes bleeding, bruising, swelling, fracture, or unconsciousness, or
    • Starving a child

  • Death of another child. A court can take steps to make a child dependent if the parent or guardian caused the death of another child through neglect or abuse.

  • Abandonment. Under Section 300, a child will be considered abandoned if found to be in one of four circumstances:
    • A parent or guardian has left the child without providing for his or her support,
    • The parent or guardian has voluntarily surrendered the child according to California Health and Safety Code Section 1255.7 and the child has not been reclaimed within the specified 14-day period,
    • The parent of guardian is institutionalized or incarcerated and has not arranged for care of the child,
    • A relative or other custodian the child has been left with can no longer care for the child or is unwilling to do so, and the parent’s whereabouts are unknown after reasonable efforts to locate them.

  • Freed for adoption. By either termination of parental rights or relinquishment, the parent has freed the child for adoption for over 12 months or an adoption petition has not been granted.

  • Acts of cruelty. A parent, guardian, or member of the household has subjected the child to one or more acts of cruelty, or the parent or guardian has failed to protect the child from acts of cruelty by a person that the parent or guardian should have known was a danger to the child.

  • Siblings have been abused. A child’s siblings have been neglected or abused in the ways mentioned above. In these cases, a court must consider the circumstances surrounding the prior neglect of the sibling, the nature of the abuse of the sibling, the age and gender of all children, the parent or guardian’s mental condition, among other factors to determine whether the child is at risk for abuse or neglect.

Orange County Child Dependency Defense at the Law Office of Lauren K. Johnson

Our criminal defense attorney at the Law Office of Lauren K. Johnson will provide you with experienced legal defense for child dependency charges. If facing possible charges it is important to get in touch with our Orange County criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. We can be reached by phone at 949-622-5522 or you can send us a message online today.