The New Jersey Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCPP), formerly the Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS), is the state agency responsible for providing family support and ensuring children’s safety. Under New Jersey state law, the DCPP must thoroughly investigate any reports of child neglect or abuse.
If a caseworker appears unannounced at your home, you have certain rights as a parent or guardian, which a dedicated attorney could explain. Families who are dealing with DCPP/DYFS investigations in Montclair should seek legal representation to help navigate the process.
Montclair residents under DCPP investigation have delineated rights under the outlined procedures. For example, although the agency is prevented by law from naming the person who reported the alleged neglect or abuse, parents have the right to full disclosure about why they are under DCPP investigation.
Additionally, guardians and parents have the right to:
Following a DCPP investigation in Montclair, there are four potential outcomes that the caseworkers may issue. A previous system only allowed for two outcome categories, but the current framework is designed to be fairer for families and better targeted for unique circumstances.
An “unfounded” finding means that DCPP did not find a preponderance of evidence demonstrating that child abuse or neglect occurred. DCPP does not disclose these findings upon a Child Abuse Record Information (CARI) check request, and an unfounded finding may be eligible for expungement from one’s record.
When DCPP issues a “not established” finding, there is evidence that a child may have been harmed or at risk of harm, but there is no preponderance of the evidence to establish abuse or neglect. DCPP maintains the finding in agency records but will not disclose it upon a CARI request.
A claim of child neglect or abuse is “established” if a preponderance of evidence shows statutory child abuse or neglect but aggravating or mitigating factors do not warrant substantiation. While DCPP will maintain an established finding in agency records, it will not disclose these findings upon a CARI request.
A claim of child neglect or abuse will be considered “substantiated” if a preponderance of the evidence demonstrates that child abuse or child neglect occurred. Additionally, one of two elements must also be satisfied for a finding to be substantiated. Either the caseworker’s investigation showed evidence of a severe situation, such as physical or sexual abuse; or mitigating or aggravating factors, once considered, warrant substantiation. In the case of a substantiated finding, DCPP discloses the report for a CARI check.
During a DCPP investigation, certain factors may mitigate or aggravate the agency’s findings. For example, aggravating factors include a parent’s failure to comply with a judge’s order established to protect a child’s safety, or intentionally inflicting lasting harm on a child. Mitigating factors can include the alleged abuse’s negligible impact on a child or extraordinary circumstances.
While the DCPP is designed to operate in the best interests of families and children, being under investigation can be incredibly difficult. If you are dealing with DCPP/DYFS investigations in Montclair, working with a lawyer who understands each step of the agency’s processes could benefit your case. Reach out to our legal team today to discuss how we could help you and your family.