The County Attorney is required by statute to “attend to the prosecution in the juvenile session . . . held pursuant to petitions filed under KRS Chapter 610”. Under this requirement are all actions where a child is alleged to be “Dependent,” “Neglected,” or “Abused.” (“DNA”)
A DNA action is commenced with the filing of a Juvenile Dependency / Neglect or Abuse Petition. The Affiant – the individual with knowledge about the facts involving the child – states the reasons in the petition why he or she thinks a child is dependent, neglected, or abused. The Court will then schedule a hearing to determine “whether there are reasonable grounds to believe that the child would be dependent, neglected, or abused if returned to, or left in the custody of his parent or other person exercising custodial control or supervision”.
After this initial determination, the Court holds bifurcated hearings: 1) an adjudication to “determine the truth or falsity of the allegations in the petition,” and 2) a disposition to “determine the action to be taken by the court on behalf of, and in the best interest of, the child”.
The goal of the County Attorney’s office in these cases is the care and protection of the child. These proceedings are not criminal in nature and the goal of all DNA cases is, through the appropriate treatment and therapies, to reunify the child with the family.
Child abuse is a serious crime that can be prosecuted under the laws of the Commonwealth, however the DNA proceedings are independent of any criminal proceedings. It is possible to have both criminal proceedings, and DNA proceedings prosecuted at the same time.
More information can be found at the Kentucky Cabinet for the Health and Family Services website or in Child Abused Neglect Booklet produced by the State of Kentucky.