51 Kids and the Law Care and Protection Cases Care and Protection cases apply to children under age 18. The Petition alleges that the child: • is without necessary and proper physical or educational care or disci- pline; or • is growing up under conditions or circumstances damaging to the child’s sound character development; or • is without the proper attention of a parent or guardian; or • does not have a parent or guardian who is willing, competent and available to provide necessary and proper care, discipline and attention. A case begins when a Petition is filed in the juvenile court where the child is located. Care and Protection Petitions can result in a Termination of Parental Rights, with children being permanently removed from their homes, parental rights being terminated, and children being freed for adoption. Who can file a Petition? Although any person, including a child or probation officer, can file a Petition, most Petitions are filed by a school, hospital, or Department of Children and Families (DCF) official. Even if a Petition has been filed by someone other than a DCF official, DCF almost always takes the place of that Petitioner and takes over the prosecution of the case. What happens next? If a Petition is filed alleging the child is in need of emergency care and protec- tion, an immediate preliminary hearing will take place without the parents’ or guardians’ presence. At that hearing the judge can order that the child be re- moved from the home and put in the temporary custody of DCF. In cases that are presented as emergencies, frequently DCF may have already taken emer- gency custody of the child. When that happens, the court can order that DCF Care and Protection Cases 6 6