Initial Hearing

The first event in court is the initial hearing, which is also known as the preliminary protective, shelter care, detention, emergency removal, probable cause, or temporary custody hearing. This hearing occurs soon after the filing of the petition or after a child has been removed from the home. The precise deadline for this hearing depends on State law, but should occur as soon as possible following the filing of the petition, or upon removal of the child.

The main purpose of the initial hearing is to determine whether the child should be placed in or remain in foster care, or remain with or be returned to the parents pending further proceedings. The critical issues are whether removal was and continues to be in the best interest of the child, whether the agency made reasonable efforts to prevent the child’s removal, and whether in-home services or other measures can be put in place to ensure the child’s safety and allow the child to return home.