Dependency & Neglect


After an incident of child abuse or neglect, a dependency and neglect (D&N) case may be opened by the Department of Human Services (DHS). These are cases in which:

  • children are not being cared for properly, or
  • parents or caregivers are committing crimes against children.

After a report of child abuse or neglect is made, DHS may investigate the report. After the investigation, DHS decides whether or not to file a D&N case.

A D&N case is a civil case. Parents involved in a D&N case are not being charged with a crime. A D&N case tries to help parents make changes for the child’s best interests and safety. A parent involved in a D&N case can have their own attorney. Low-income parents may be eligible for a court-appointed attorney.

Once a D&N case is filed, the court appoints a Guardian ad Litem (GAL). The GAL is an attorney who is one member of a team that works for the best interests of the child. This team may also include a:

  • Caseworker from DHS;
  • Court appointed special advocate (CASA). CASAs are appointed by the court, but they are not lawyers. They work with the family and the child;
  • Clinical consultant who works with the GAL;
  • Other representatives or lawyers.

The team creates a treatment plan. The purpose of this plan is for the parent or parents to get or keep custody of their child. The plan may ask parents to do things like go to therapy, substance abuse treatment, or parenting classes. The child may be returned to the care of the parent or parents if they follow the plan and the court decides it is the best place for the child.

If a parent does not follow the parenting plan, the team can seek to end parental rights. This means that the parent is no longer the legal parent the child. After ending parental rights, the team recommends the best person to care for the child. This may be a family member, family friend, someone else the child knows, or a foster family.

More information on other family law issues.
List of courts by county.

If you or someone you know needs help on this topic, click here for some Denver-based and national organizations that may help you.  To see Colorado statutes on dependency and neglect, click here.