Accidental Injuries and Allegations: Are Parents to Blame?
Children are prone to accidents while they play, explore, and grow. When a child is injured accidentally, the parents—in most cases—aren’t to blame. But what happens when someone makes false allegations of child abuse because of a common childhood injury? Should the parents be held accountable? How can they prove they weren’t to blame? These questions are important to answer because parents face child abuse allegations for accidental injuries every day.
How Accidents Turn Into Allegations
People who work with children, such as school nurses and pediatricians, are required to report suspected child abuse. When a child comes to them with an injury, they have to make the judgment call on whether it could be from abuse or not. Sometimes, they make poor judgment calls, resulting in a CPS investigation. Now, let’s take a look at how CPS distinguishes abuse from accidents.
When CPS—operated by the DCP&P in New Jersey—receives a child abuse referral, caseworkers may visit the child’s home and conduct an examination. When assessing a child’s injury, caseworkers will note where the injury is. Normal childhood injuries include bumps and bruises on knees, elbows, and other bony protuberances. The same signs of injury on soft tissue areas of the body, such as the abdomen, could indicate child abuse.
Caseworkers will also note how many injuries the child has. A pair of bruises on a child’s knee could indicate accidental injuries from a playground tumble, but multiple injury sites spread over the body could indicate intentional force or violence. Similarly, they will note the stage of healing of each injury. Multiple injuries in varying stages of healing could be a sign of ongoing abuse.
Other factors CPS will consider when identifying child abuse are the size and shape of the injury. Hand-shaped impressions or bruises in the shape of a rod, belt buckle or leather strap are red flags for investigating caseworkers.
Lastly, the caseworker will speak with the child, the parents, and others in the household to gauge the likelihood the injuries were accidental. If the parents provide an implausible story or the child’s developmental status does not coincide with the nature of the injury, caseworkers may take those as signs the injury was not accidental.
Find an Advocate
Whenever facing allegations of child abuse, whether for an accident or not, you should be working with an experienced New Jersey child abuse defense attorney. The many factors caseworkers will assess when investigating a child abuse referral can point to the wrong conclusion. For this reason, it’s imperative you work with an attorney who can explain the particular factors relevant to your case and how CPS will investigate the referral. From there, you can make informed decisions about how to handle the allegations.
Are you facing allegations of child abuse? If so, Williams Law Group, LLC can help. Our skilled attorneys can advise you of your rights and help you defend yourself against the DCP&P. Located in Short Hills, New Jersey, Williams Law Group, LLC provides compassionate and dedicated legal services to Union, Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Morris, Monmouth, and Middlesex counties, and the surrounding areas. Our knowledgeable attorneys handle divorce and family law, child custody, and child abuse/neglect cases. Call our office at (908) 810-1083, email us at [email protected], or contact us through our confidential online form to schedule a consultation and ultimately get you connected with an experienced New Jersey divorce and child custody attorney.