In an investigation by the Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCPP), the mental health of you and your child may come into question. These could involve psychological evaluations and testimonies from therapists or other experts.
If DCPP is seeking medical mental health records from you, your therapist, or your child’s therapist, it is highly recommended that you consult an experienced attorney. Our legal team could explain the role of psychological information in Short Hills DCPP cases and help you determine what to disclose in your particular situation.
It is almost always ill-advised for you to sign releases of your child’s mental health records for DCPP. The reason is that your child has provided very private information to their mental health provider, which should not be shared lightly. Furthermore, children often make statements that are taken out of context, and sometimes mental health providers give information without a full history of all that has happened in your family. Without context, these statements may or may not be harmful to your case.
Before this information is shared with DCPP, you should seek advice from a knowledgeable attorney to make sure that your perspective on your child’s mental health is known. You should also discuss opportunities to seek additional, clarifying mental health treatment for your child if you are concerned that the information disclosed may be harmful to your DCPP investigation.
Like with mental health information, you should consult a nearby lawyer before signing any DCPP authorizations for your child’s medical records. In many cases, an attorney will advise you to sign the releases because all that is being verified is that your child is not medically ill and that you have followed up on all of the routine appointments.
However, in other cases, your child’s medical records may require some form of explanation, which DCPP will not seek out on its own. Based solely on what is in the record, they may or may not choose to remove your child or go to court against you. As such, it is crucial that you get a qualified legal opinion before signing over any medical information.
DCPP does not have the right to speak with your therapist unless you expressly authorize it. You must sign a form known as a HIPAA authorization to enable your therapist to share information with DCPP that was otherwise confidential.
Therapists can be a great resource for you in your DCPP case. They are often on your side and want to share information that will have you reunified with your child as soon as possible. However, DCPP would have the right to ask extremely private questions and obtain confidential information about you if you sign an authorization.
When in doubt, you should have your attorney draft a limited authorization giving your therapist the right to share very specific information about you. This could include:
Beyond this, DCPP should not get any additional psychological information from your therapist unless it is court ordered.
Generally speaking, you are authorized to speak with your child’s therapist. If you want to arrange a meeting with your child’s therapist when DCPP has filed a case against you, you should speak with your attorney before doing so. There is information that the therapist can benefit from hearing from you, but you do not want to say anything that can and will be used against you in the DCPP court proceeding.
If DCPP’s expert comes out with a report that says that you have a mental disease or defect, the question is whether that condition causes a risk of harm to your children. DCPP will want to know if the mental illness affects your parenting.
It is important to consider the psychological information that DCPP used to come to the conclusion that there is some mental impairment. In a DCPP court case or investigation, you entitled to retain a mental health expert to do a contrary report to the division’s finding. This person must be provided the same information as the division’s expert, which they will use to give their opinion on your mental status and parenting ability.
No matter your circumstances, it is best to speak with a dedicated attorney before releasing any mental health records for yourself or your child. A lawyer with experience in DCPP proceedings could help ensure that you do not disclose information that may end up hurting your case. To learn more about psychological information in Short Hills DCPP cases, call the Williams Law Group today for a consultation.