About 25 kids are expected to attend the next CODY scheduled on May 24 at 4:45 p.m. in Mesa. Please R.S.V.P to attend the May 24 CODY by contacting C.Colmenero@jbazmc.maricopa.gov.

PHOENIX (May 18, 2023) – Having to appear before a judge can be daunting, especially for youth involved in dependency cases.

The Juvenile Court, part of the Judicial Branch of Arizona in Maricopa County, created the Court Orientation for Dependent Youth (CODY) program to empower dependent children. The program is helping kids become more familiar with the juvenile court system, giving them the opportunity to better advocate for themselves in court.

“Dependency cases are about the health and safety of children. The children in these cases have a right to attend hearings and be heard by the judicial officer who will be making important decisions about the child’s future and safety,” said Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Robert Brooks. “Unfortunately, the court process can often be confusing and intimidating for all, but especially for these already-traumatized children. CODY helps to introduce these children to the court and to all of the various individuals who are involved in the court process, in a way that promotes their comfort and hopefully helps them to be able to better advocate for their interests in court.”

During CODY, kids aged 12-17 hear about each person’s role in a courtroom and gain insight into the dependency process, which is the formal court proceedings to establish who will assume permanent custody of a child. Representatives from the Arizona Attorney General’s Office, Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), the Arizona Department of Child Safety, the Arizona Department of Education, an attorney, and guardian ad litem (attorneys who represent the best interest of children in Juvenile Court) explain their roles and the impact they can have in a dependency case.

The program is held every two months and rotates between the Durango complex in Phoenix and the Southeast facility in Mesa. Kids who prefer a virtual option can watch a video about the program and complete a fillable workbook explaining the dependency process and their rights.

“Put simply, the CASA has two roles. The first is to provide the child with a familiar, reliable, and supportive figure for the remainder of the child's time in foster care. The second is to get to know the child and her circumstances, needs, relationships, abilities, and interests and to communicate these to the court so that the judicial officer can make good well-informed decisions,” said CASA Brad Tebow. “I appear at CODY to explain the CASA's role in and out of the courtroom. The objective of the CASA and the professionals at CODY is to empower older youth to become active advocates of their own interests in the child-welfare system.”

During the pandemic, the program was on hiatus but recently returned to meeting in-person. Since the program restarted, 18 kids have participated in CODY.

CODY starts at 4:45 p.m. and typically lasts about an hour. After the program, Voices of CASA, a local nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting kids in the dependency process, provides refreshments onsite to allow youth to ask follow-up questions.

“Children in foster care have the right to remain in their school of origin. School stability for children in foster care will increase their educational success and even help with the other goals surrounding the foster care dependency,” said Foster Care Education Coordinator Joey Taylor. “When children in foster care change their foster care placement, it is imperative that the children remain at the school they were attending before that move occurred, so the child welfare agency and the school of origin can assess if it is in the best interest of the child to remain there.”

A dependency case is when a child does not have a parent or guardian willing or able to care for them. Dependency cases are generally initiated by the Arizona Department of Child Safety in the interest of children who are believed to be without proper care.

“CODY does what no verbal description of the court process can do. It is an in-person, direct experience of court. It has been tremendously helpful as a tool to educate my clients about the court process and their unique role within it,” said the Office of the Legal Advocate Attorney Linda Christian. “The pizza dinner to cap off the evening is a further bonus. The youth get a chance to sit down with others in the same circumstance and hear about further support and opportunities for continuing their education. We have received uniformly positive feedback as to this valuable program. We are fortunate to be able to participate.”

For more information about CODY or to download the fillable CODY workbook visit: https://superiorcourt.maricopa.gov/juvenile/dependency/