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What happens to my child?

The law does not require the arresting officers to let you make arrangements for your child at the time of arrest. The arresting officer may let you make a phone call to make sure that your child is with a responsible relative or close friend.

If you're unable to make a call, ask the first attorney assigned to you to get a court order allowing you to make emergency phone calls to locate your child and arrange for her care. If you do not have family who can care for your child, contact a trusted friend to care for your child or help you talk with your child.

What if my child is with me?

If your child is with you when you're arrested, the arresting or booking officer may allow you to arrange care for your child before being booked. If so, call as soon as possible:

  • The child's other parent;
  • A responsible relative of the child; or
  • A responsible friend—someone your child knows and trusts.

What if my child is not with me?

If your child is not with you, let the school, day care center, or other caregiver know:

  • That you will not be able to pick up your child; and
  • That your relative/friend/babysitter will be picking up the child; or
  • Whom they can call to care for your child.

What if my child is not picked up?

If your child is not picked up by a relative or friend, s/he will likely be placed in an emergency shelter through the county Child Protective Services (CPS) agency. Welfare and Institutions Code §§300(g) and 306.

What if my child goes to CPS?

If your child is brought to CPS, act as quickly as possible:

  • Call a relative immediately; or,
  • Have your relative call CPS immediately; and
  • Tell your relative to bring any proof that exists about their relationship (birth certificate, signed letter from you, or passport).

CPS will release your child to a parent, guardian or responsible relative who poses no risk or danger to your child. Welfare and Institutions Code §309(a).

CPS will initiate an emergency assessment of relatives who come forward to care for the child. This assessment includes a criminal back-ground check, verification of their relationship to the child, and a visit to the home to ensure that the environment is safe. Welfare and Institutions Code §309(d).

If CPS does not place your child with a relative within 48 hours, CPS must file papers in court to make your child a dependent of the court.

BE PERSISTENT: Ask your public defender, chaplain, community services, or medical staff for help.

How do I get to Juvenile Court?

NOTE: Jail Mail Moves Slowly. You cannot depend on receiving hearing notices in time to get to court. Keep track of your child's hearing dates. Ask your lawyer and social worker to let you know of any changes in court dates. If you have an attorney be sure to tell her/him that you want to be present at the hearings so that s/he can ask the court to issue an order to have you transported to the hearing. If you are not represented by an attorney you should write to the judge and ask to be transported to the hearing. Cal. Penal Code §2625.

Try to get a transport order:

  1. Call or write your lawyer or the judge.
  2. Ask that the court issue an order to transport you to the hearing. Cal. Penal Code §2625.
  3. Ask that a stamped, filed copy of the judge's order be sent to the warden or sheriff where you are incarcerated and to the county sheriff where the Juvenile Court is located. (See this manual's Samples section)
  4. Ask your lawyer to meet with you at the local jail (where you will be held directly before and after the hearing) to discuss your child's case.
  5. Write to your child's social worker and ask to meet with her/him at the local jail.
  6. Ask to visit with your child while there.
  7. Keep a copy of every letter that you write. If you cannot get to a copy machine, write out a second copy of the letter with the date and at the top write: "I did not have access to a copy machine. This is an exact handwritten copy of my original letter."

Legal Services for Prisoners with Children
1540 Market St., Suite 490  •  San Francisco, CA 94102
(415) 255-7036  •