The Division of Child Protection and Permanency (formerly the Division of Youth and Family Services) exists to help protect children from abusive or neglectful situations. What some do not realize, however, is that the law requires that DYFS/DCPP make every attempt to help your family reunify if they have removed your children. While your family law attorney will no doubt have a lot of knowledge about this type of situation, taking extra steps for an in-depth understanding of the process can help you if your children have been removed.
If your children have been removed from your care by DYFS/DCPP due to alleged abuse or neglect, the initial goal for permanency is almost always reunification. The DYFS/DCPP will need to present a possible goal and permanency plan to the court at what is called a permanency hearing. It is important for you to talk to your attorney to make sure the goal in your permanency plan is reunification.
Plan of Reunification
To further the goal of reunification, DYFS/DCPP will present you with a plan of reunification. The plan will have a list of tasks and services contained therein. These tasks are meant to address the reasons of removal, and every plan is different.
What Will Be On My Plan of Reunification?
Just as every family is different, every plan of reunification is different. The plan should be uniquely tailored to your case and your family. For example, if your children were removed from your care due to alleged drug abuse, your plan of reunification will likely contain requirements for you to attend drug counseling and submit to drug screens.
Changing the Goal
Although almost every case has an initial plan of reunification, this will not always remain the goal. If DYFS/DCPP does not feel that you are taking strides to address the reasons for removal, they may return to court to ask that the goal be changed from reunification to adoption, which will require terminating your parental rights.
Once you have completed the tasks and services contained in your plan of reunification, the next step will be to move toward returning your children to your care. That said, the children are not likely to be simply given back to you with DYFS/DCPP disappearing completely from your life. Instead, they will want to create a specific and structured plan to transition the children back to your care.
How Long Will Reunification Take?
Once the reunification process has begun, how long it will take to complete will vary depending on you and your family. DYFS/DCPP will continue to monitor your case and your progress to make sure it is appropriate to leave your children in your care. If they believe you are having trouble keeping your home safe for your children, they may want to lengthen the time that they are involved with your family to make sure your children are safe.
What if DYFS/DCPP Doesn’t Want to Reunify My Children With Me?
If DYFS/DCPP is being resistant to the idea of reunifying your children with you and your family, it is likely because they believe that you are not meeting the goals of your plan of reunification. While sometimes their concerns may be valid, caseworkers may also sometimes “move the goal posts” making it difficult or impossible for you to attain reunification. It is important that you have an experienced attorney on your side to help fight their claims if you have addressed all of their reasons for removal of your children.
If you are involved in a DYFS/DCPP case, you need experienced attorneys. Contact us for a consultation and we can help you with your case and reunifying your children with you.