Missouri’s juvenile courts deal with two broad areas concerning children. First, a minor who is charged with committing a crime will be brought before a juvenile court judge. If the crime is serious, the court will decide whether to certify the minor to be tried as an adult. Especially in these situations, it is crucial to obtain experienced counsel as early as possible. If your child is taken into custody, call us right away, and tell all of your family members to stop communicating with everyone else, especially law enforcement and related investigatory personnel.
The second type of case that juvenile courts deal with is where children are the victims of abuse or neglect. It is not unusual for each parent and the child to have an attorney in these cases. With proper guidance from counsel, who will also monitor the juvenile office and Children’s Division caseworkers to insure they do their jobs properly, these cases are usually resolved within a year or so. Problems will worsen quickly, however, if someone gets off track. An experienced attorney is your best protection against the system malfunctioning against you.
Here is an example of a juvenile court case where the parents hired Dan Pingelton to protect them from poor treatment by social service agencies that were supposed to be helping their daughter:
Shortly after the child’s 13-year birthday, she began acting out at home, and eventually became violent. Her parents sought help, first from private healthcare facilities, and then finally from the Division of Family Services, DFS. (This agency has since been renamed Children’s Division, or CD.) Instead of helping the parents, ill-advised DFS personnel decided to remove the daughter from their home and place her in a temporary foster home. While disagreeing with that decision, the parents believed DFS was trying to do the right thing, so they followed all of the rules given to them by DFS. Meanwhile, the case dragged on and their daughter was getting worse. The parents asked Dan Pingelton for help. DFS was unusually resistant at first, so Dan Pingelton forced the agency into court, and obtained a special court order requiring DFS to provide periodic updates to him and the parents. After receiving minimally compliant information, Dan Pingelton used targeted legal procedures to depose several DFS personnel and review confidential records. During one deposition, we were astonished to discover an improper redaction of a critical treatment record that DFS personnel tried to hide. Under threat of further court action and the expansion of litigation against other DFS officials, Mr. Pingelton was able to obtain the withheld information, confirming that the case had been mishandled for months.
Eventually, DFS capitulated to a better temporary foster placement, and the subsequent return of the daughter to her home. Today, she is happy, healthy, and has a good relationship with her parents and the rest of her family. This is due in large part to the love and persistence of her parents; and also, we believe, to the battles we fought for them against an agency that lost its way in this particular case.
The Children’s Division and Missouri’s juvenile offices usually do a good job with these difficult cases. Dan Pingelton works with them frequently, and understands the nuances of inter-agency relationships, their strong points and their weaker points. In most cases, we work alongside the agencies (and keep an eye on them) to help children. In the few cases where necessary, we will make them do the right thing for children.