Parents are often induced into “cooperating” with the Division of Youth and Family Services, a/k/a the Division of Child Protection and Permanency, upon threat of the Division going to DYFS NJ (DCPP) court. Many fear that a judge would rule against them if they are seen as being uncooperative. Others fear the parade of horribles threatened by the Division if they do not comply. Where child safety is at issue, there are few absolutes.
However, one near-absolute is that “cooperating” with the Division can often make matters worse. Not because all hellfire and damnation will be brought down upon the family if they do not cooperate. Not because the parent will more likely face a removal of their child. But, because when families are not in litigation with the Division, they are no longer a priority.
The agency is busy. Over-worked caseworkers and under-funded programs inundate a practice replete with emergencies. When a parent agrees to cooperate, the Division runs the show, the parent usually loses any ability to object to proposed evaluations, programs and services, and most importantly, any supervision or suspension of parenting time can drag on for a minor lifetime, ad the Division no longer feels the pressure to move promptly to reinstate the status quo.
In the past year, we have encountered a dozen families who endured 6 months or more of restrictive, supervised parenting time before the Division would even consider loosening the reigns. These cases languish in the world of non-emergency, while parental bonds are attenuated, children are distressed because their non-custodial parent and the parents’ funds are depleted securing their own services.
If a hiccup occurs in the process designed and implemented by the Division, the matter goes to court, at which point the Division often minimizes the progress made before litigation is sought. A well-intentioned, but sparsely-informed judge goes through the “usual process”, entering orders without due regard for the half-year of services endured to date. Then, the parent is left starting all over again with new professionals, new evaluations, etc.
Sometimes, this torturous extension of the Division’s involvement is orchestrated, but often times, it is not. Often, new workers are involved. Fresh perspective is sought. Motivation is refreshed. Unfortunately, this comes at a cost to the family, who is still left with a period of jumping-through-hoops before their family is restored to normalcy.
For that reason, from this professional’s perspective, blind compliance with Division recommendations is usually ill-advised. Instead, parents should try to obtain definitive timelines for progression of the matter, in writing, before agreeing to comply. Insist that the Division agree to file litigation if certain benchmarks are not met. If the Division will not agree, it may be advisable to place in writing a general willingness to cooperate with the agency, but a preference to wait a court order up until doing so.
This should increase with the likelihood that whatever course of action is pursued, the parent’s cooperation can be monitored, with scheduled court appearances tracked to events to prevent the parent’s cooperation from transmuting into a death sentence for all reasonable timeliness in the matter.
If you or someone you know is involved with the Division of Youth and Family Services, a/k/a the Division of Child Protection and Permanency, please contact the Williams Law Group, LLC, to schedule a DYFS NJ (DCPP) consultation.
Although we hope you find them helpful, these pointers are not designed to provide legal advice. Please contact our law firm at 908-810-1083 for personalized legal help with your case. We look forward to hearing from you.