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If the Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCPP), once known as the Department of Youth and Family Services (DYFS), has entered your life, you may face significant challenges. With little evidence, child protection workers can decide that an anonymous child abuse report is true.
Sadly, the implications of that decision could affect you and your children forever. For example, you could be added to the state’s child abuse registry, denying you employment opportunities. Tragically, in some cases, you could lose custody of your children and parental rights.
If you are part of a DCPP court case and disagree with the judge’s decision, you have the right to an appeal. Therefore, contacting our dedicated attorneys as soon as possible to help you with DCPP/DYFS appeals in Maplewood is critical.
When DCPP receives a report of child abuse or neglect, they must complete a thorough investigation under state law. During this time, an investigator could arrive unannounced at a person’s home, ask intrusive questions, and demand to interview their children. DCPP employees might also speak with neighbors, teachers, doctors, and other family members who might have insight about a child’s day-to-day care.
DCPP employees must complete their investigation within 60 days and issue a “finding letter” to a parent revealing their decision. If the investigation revealed evidence of child abuse or neglect, the letter would say that the finding was “substantiated” or “established.”
A substantiated finding means that DCPP believes evidence of abuse or neglect exists. The Division could remove a child from their parent’s home, place them in foster care, and open a court case against the parents.
On the other hand, an established finding indicates that DCPP found that abuse or neglect occurred, but mitigating factors exist. In some cases, DCPP might not open a court case for an established result, but the implication that the parents committed child abuse or neglect remains on the parents’ record.
Overworked DCPP employees frequently make mistakes. Sadly, when these errors occur, parents pay the consequences. If DCPP/DYFS finds that an abuse report is “substantiated” or “established” and the parents disagree, the parents could make an Administrative Appeal with help from a skilled attorney in Maplewood.
However, parents must quickly act since they have only 20 days from receiving the findings letter to submit a written appeal request to the New Jersey Office of Administrative Law. After requesting an appeal, parents can dispute DCPP’s evidence to an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).
The ALJ has the power to vacate the Division’s findings. First, however, parents must show the Court that DCPP’s decision was incorrect, and that the Division has not met its burden of proof to prove abuse or neglect. Likewise, legal guardians unhappy with the ALJ’s decision could appeal a finding and request a reconsideration. If the reconsideration rules in favor of DCPP, the parents must submit an appeal to the Appellate Division of the New Jersey Superior Court.
By complying with the court’s orders to correct their behavior, parents could regain custody of their children or terminate DCPP supervision. However, if a case is still open after a year, the court will schedule a Permanency Hearing where each side presents its Permanency Plan for the children.
If DCPP’s Permanency Plan calls for the termination of parental rights (TPR) and the court agrees, DCPP will schedule another hearing under New Jersey Statutes Annotated §30:4C-15, often called the TPR hearing. At the TPR hearing, DCPP must prove that ending the relationship between parents and their children serves the adolescent’s best interests.
If the court grants the termination of rights, the parents will no longer be the children’s legal parents. Additionally, the parents have no right to visitation or contact and no decision-making authority regarding the children. Likewise, children could be placed for adoption, and their parents would have no recourse. Parents can appeal a termination of their rights to the New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division. However, these appeals are complex and require the assistance of a hardworking attorney in Maplewood.
If DCPP misjudged your parenting skills, you have the right to explain your side of the story. However, you need an attorney experienced in litigating DCPP issues to handle these high-stakes appeals.
Trust a knowledgeable attorney to represent you during a DCPP/DFYS appeal in Maplewood. With help from our compassionate lawyers, you stand the best chance of regaining custody of your children and moving forward as a family. Call today.