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The Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DYFS) has a new determination option for child abuse investigations.
As the law stands now, when the division investigates an allegation of child abuse or neglect, there are only two options for the “outcome” of the investigation. Either the allegation is substantiated or unfounded. If you are facing abuse or neglect allegations contact a DYFS lawyer immediately.
“Substantiated” Outcome. This means that it is likely that the alleged offense did occur and/or that the alleged perpetrator is responsible.
“Unfounded” Outcome. This means that either the alleged offense is not likely to have occurred or that the alleged perpetrator is not the one responsible for the abuse or neglect.
These outcomes can be based on either the initial allegation or upon any information arising from the investigation. If you have received an unfavorable DYFS outcome contact the Williams Law Group today.
There used to be a third category of outcomes that fell between “unfounded” and “substantiated” which was called “unsubstantiated”. “Unsubstantiated” means that although the initial referral had merit, the information could not be verified one way or another and hence, the division would not characterize the allegation as abuse or neglect.
DYFS INVESTIGATIONS – MAKE SURE YOU KNOW THE CONSEQUENCES
KNOW YOUR DYFS INVESTIGATION RIGHTS
The new administrative protocol has many new updates. There are now four levels of evaluation which have varying degrees of consequences.
Significant Update #1 – Only an allegation that is “substantiated” will result in a listing of the parent on the Child Abuse Registry maintained by the Department of Children and Families (DCF).
Significant Update #2 – Only allegations that are “unfounded” will result in an expungement of the child abuse records, which will occur within three years of the “unfounded” outcome.
DYFS INVESTIGATION PROCESS – BE CAREFUL BEFORE YOU SETTLE
DYFS INVESTIGATION NOT ESTABLISHED
While it may appear to those who handle these cases that the new system provides opportunities for “settlement”, practitioners should still be wary of “settling” these cases.
The reason is that if the prior administrative finding is not contested or is not resolved as an “unfounded” fact finding hearing, future child abuse investigations may be more difficult to defend against.
As with any snowballing area of the law, new administrative and/or legislative imperatives still require a full analysis of potential consequences, with disclosure to the parent of the uncertainty of consequences, before a body of law will be established to address the new regulations. Parents should make sure they understand the “settlement”, if any is proposed.
WHAT DYFS CONSENT ORDERS SHOULD CONTAIN
DYFS INVESTIGATION AND SCHOOL RECORDS
Defense counsel should be careful during negotiations and make sure that consent orders contain the information upon which the parent is relying in order to settle their case.
This ensures that future child abuse investigations will not be able to use the parent’s past history if the case has been settled.
For information on defending against child abuse agency regulations, please contact us to schedule a consultation..