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Few things are as upsetting as having a child protective services worker knock on your door and ask questions about your parenting abilities. When this happens, most parents feel violated, angry, and scared.
In New Jersey, The Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCPP), once called the Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS), investigates child abuse or neglect reports. If an investigator finds evidence that parents endangered a child, DCPP could take temporary custody of the adolescent.
If you are undergoing a DCPP/DYFS investigation in Maplewood, seek legal advice immediately from our experienced attorneys. DCPP investigations are complex, and employees have the authority to take immediate action when they suspect a home is unsafe, but our compassionate DCPP/DYFS lawyers can help.
According to New Jersey Statutes Annotated §9:6-8.10, anyone who suspects child abuse or neglect in Maplewood should report it immediately. When DCPP receives an anonymous report, it must conduct a thorough investigation. Typically, the person reporting abuse is sincerely concerned about a child’s well-being. However, in other cases, individuals intentionally make false reports to harass parents.
Depending on the circumstances, a DCPP/DYFS worker typically begins an investigation after receiving a call reporting child abuse to the state-wide hotline. The employee will start their search by contacting the parents and visiting their homes without notifying them. Investigators will inspect the house, meet the children, and ask the parents or their adolescent questions.
In most cases, investigations also include DCPP employees contacting a child’s school, neighbors, doctor, or other people who might have insight regarding the child’s care. If the situation does not appear to be emergent, workers have 60 days to complete their investigation and issue a finding. After an investigation, DCPP may close the case with a finding that the report was “not established” or “unfounded.”
If an investigation reveals credible evidence that a child has been abused or neglected, DCPP will issue a finding that the report was either “substantiated” or “established.” An “established” finding requires less evidence than a “substantiated” finding.
Parents who receive a substantiated or established finding could appeal the decision to the New Jersey Office of Administrative Law. Likewise, parents who dispute these claims should consult a local attorney experienced in handling DCPP/DYFS cases about the benefits of filing an administrative appeal.
If DCPP finds evidence of abuse or neglect, it may initiate a court case in which the organization will file a verified complaint and Order to Show Cause. Any alleged defendants must attend this court hearing. During the hearing, a judge will review relevant evidence and decide whether it is sufficient to merit DCPP custody of the children or supervision of the parents.
If an abuse report indicates a child might be in immediate danger, DCPP/DYFS has the power to protect the children before they are hurt. For example, if the organization suspects abuse, a worker can enter a person’s home, often accompanied by police, and take their children into emergency custody, often placing them with a relative or resource family.
If DCPP removes a child from their home, their parents have a right to an Emergent Hearing that must be scheduled within 48 hours of removal. A dedicated attorney in Maplewood can accompany the parents to that hearing to ensure their rights are protected and that the court hears their side of the story. If the parents cannot counter DCPP’s evidence of abuse or neglect, the children could remain in an out-of-home placement temporarily or permanently.
When a judge finds DCPP has sufficient evidence to warrant the agency’s involvement in the case, they may order the parents to attend parenting classes, find suitable housing, or seek treatment for substance abuse or mental health issues. DCPP must assist parents in complying with the orders. However, mothers and fathers must complete the tasks to show the court that they are prepared to provide a safe home for their children. Otherwise, DCPP could have their parental rights terminated and offer the children for adoption.
Although you have specific rights in criminal proceedings, you have fewer rights in DCPP investigations. The court’s priority is protecting children, and DCPP has the authority to remove a child and place them in another home if its employees feel they are unsafe in their current living arrangement.
If your family is involved in a DCPP/DYFS investigation in Maplewood, contact our experienced lawyers immediately. These cases are complex, and the potential outcome could be dire for your family. Call the Williams Law Group today for help.