Accessing Juvenile Dependency Records

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    Types of Records

    There are different types of juvenile dependency records. There are court records, which include documents and files from the juvenile dependency case file kept by the court. Juvenile records also include files kept by the county agency involved in the dependency case. 

    California Welfare and Institutions Code section 827 governs access to juvenile dependency case files. All juvenile dependency-related records are confidential and may only be accessed by certain designated people. Anyone not one of the people named in section 827 must seek court permission to inspect a juvenile case file. 

    What is an 827 Petition?

    An “827 Petition” is a request to the juvenile court for an order giving the person filing the petition permission to access otherwise confidential juvenile case files. It requires anyone who is not one of the persons for whom access is authorized under the statute to file a  and 827. An 827 petition requires that the person seeking access to the records file the following forms in the juvenile dependency court in the county where the case was/is pending:

    Filing Instructions:  Submit the completed forms to the Court where the dependency case is pending. We recommend that you call the clerk of the court before sending the forms and confirm if there is a specific addressee, room number or department that should be included.  

    Proof of Service Instructions: A copy of the 827 petition must be sent to certain people at least 10 days before the petition is filed. Make copies of all 827 forms and mail or hand deliver (i.e. personally serve) to the individuals listed in Question #4 of the JV-569 form. If you do not have the names or addresses of the persons listed, check the appropriate boxes under Question #2 indicating the people you could not serve.  If you are seeking records for a living child, the court clerk must serve the 827 Petition forms. If the request is for records of a deceased child, the custodian of records will serve the forms on the individuals required to be served.

    Who Needs to do an 827 Petition (i.e. obtain a court order)?

    The following individuals wishing to obtain records will need to file an 827 petition and obtain a court order that grants access:

    • Resource parents,
    • De facto parents (not represented by an attorney),*
    • Adoptive parents,
    • Attorney for the minor not participating in a criminal or juvenile proceeding.

    *NOTE for De Facto Parents:  If you are a de facto parent who is not represented by counsel, you have to file the 827 Petition and obtain a court order.   WIC § 827(a)(1)(E) provides that case files in a juvenile dependency case can be inspected by "attorneys for the parties," meaning that if you are a de facto parent and represented by an attorney, your attorney should be granted access to the file without having to file an 827 petition. If access is denied, your attorney can make a discovery motion bringing the court's attention to the statutory language or file an 827 Petition.  


    Who Can Obtain Records Without a Court Order?

    The following individuals DO NOT need a court order to access juvenile case files (and should be able to go directly to the clerk or county department to request them):

    • The minor subject to the juvenile dependency proceeding (i.e. current or former foster youth - see Note below), 
    • The minor’s parent(s) before parental rights are terminated, 
    • An attorney who is participating in criminal or juvenile proceedings involving the minor. 
    • An attorney for a party to a juvenile proceeding (including de facto parents, see *Note for De Facto Parents in preceding section)

    *NOTE for Current or Former Foster Youth:  ADVOKIDS CAN HELP! 

    Sometimes you will run into difficulty at the court clerk's office when requesting your juvenile records. If you need assistance, contact us!

    If you want to do it on your own, we suggest printing out a copy of  WIC § 827(a)(1)(C) and California Rule of Court 5.552 and showing them to the clerk if s/he denies your request to see your case file.  You can also request to speak with a supervisor. You can also try contacting your former attorney.  If you do not receive a response, contact Advokids.


    How to Obtain Records Without a Court Order

    If you are seeking records without doing an 827 petition first (i.e. you are a current or former foster youth, a parent, an attorney, or other person entitled to access to juvenile case files without a court order), contact the clerk of the court or the county agency involved in the case. They may require you to submit a written request, especially if the case is not still open. Some counties have created their own forms to request and copy juvenile records. Here are some that we found:

    *NOTE:  You should contact your county to determine whether they have a similar form.  If your county does not have its own form, you can use the above declaration forms as a model for drafting your own declaration to make your request. 

    *NOTE ABOUT ADOPTION RECORDS: Adoption records are considered separate from dependency court records. They are not part of the juvenile court file and they are confidential under other provisions of the law. 


    Monetary Fees and Confidentiality

    There are fees associated and charged by the county clerk to redact and copy the juvenile case file.  Effective January 2020, if you are a foster child/youth aged 26 or under, there is no cost to be associated with obtaining copies of your juvenile case file.  You may have to print out a copy of Welfare and Institutions Code section 16001.9(a)(36) and bring it with you to show the court clerk.


    If You Want to Disclose the Records You Have Obtained

    If you are a person eligible to obtain records under WIC § 827 (a)(1), and have obtained such records, but you want to disclose them to individuals not identified in WIC § 827 (a)(1), or to use them in a civil court proceeding, you must submit the 827 Petition and request the court’s permission to share the records.


    If you still have trouble accessing the case file after following the above suggestions, please call Advokids, 415-924-0587

    Legal Disclaimer: Advokids provides educational information and resources to those who use our website, call our hotline, or submit requests for information via the website. Any information provided may not be construed as the giving of legal advice to any person about a particular legal matter and should not be relied upon as the basis for taking a particular action or refraining from taking a particular action in any legal matter. If you want or need legal advice about a particular legal matter, you should consult a lawyer.

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