In DYFS v. E.R., the Appellate Division upheld a finding of neglect against a parent who violated a DYFS case plan by repeatedly exposing her daughter to the mother’s boyfriend’s unwanted sexual advances. In so holding, the Court held:
Defendant’s misconduct lies in her steadfast loyalty to her paramour while ignoring her legal responsibility to protect her daughter from his unwelcome and inappropriate sexual advances.
In essence, the mother was found culpable for NOT believing her child’s allegations. But, would the result have been the same if the mother had failed to believe her daughter’s allegations against her husband, rather than her boyfriend? And what if the daughter had been prone to acting out whenever mom commenced a new relationship? Is this a case of DYFS imputing to the parent the knowledge of when abuse claims are substantiated and should be believed? And what of those cases where DYFS substantiates abuse, then later changes the finding? If DYFS can change its mind, why cannot the parent?
The answer lies in the intricacies of each case. By and large, DYFS and the Superior Court have little to no tolerance for parents who place their individual need for a partner above their child’s need to live in an environment free from physical and emotional harm. Parents, disbelieve at your own peril…