The Authority to Question
DCPP caseworkers are trained in obtaining honest information about the allegations they investigate. One way they work to get truthful statements from children is to talk to them without the parent present. DCPP (formerly DYFS) caseworkers have the authority to show up at your child’s school or daycare and ask to speak with him or her. This is often upsetting and confusing for the child and leaves the parent feeling invaded. Caseworkers employ this method, however, because it allows them to question the child before the parent has an opportunity to “coach” him or her on how to answer. That being said, you should talk with your child about what “CPS” is and how they do not have to talk to a stranger—even from DCPP—at school without you present.
Prepare Your Child
Your child has a right to refuse to answer any questions without a trusted adult present. Communicate this to your child and inform his or her school of your wishes. DCPP may still attempt to interview your child without notifying you or gaining your consent, as it has the right under New Jersey law to investigate every child abuse referral to the fullest extent. Moreover, DCPP will sometimes interview a child before a parent is even notified of the allegations. The critical thing to remember is that DCPP caseworkers must immediately notify you if they interview your child without your consent.
A word of caution: it is not uncommon for investigators to misinterpret a child’s responses. DCPP can use statements from your child in the investigation. In other words, what your child’s teacher may have shrugged off as a normal utterance could turn into evidence of maltreatment in the eyes of an investigator. For this reason, it’s essential you stress to your child that he or she does not have to answer any questions about you or their home life unless you are there.
Protect Your Family by Contacting a Child Abuse Defense Attorney
If DCPP investigators have contacted you or your child, you need to speak with a New Jersey child abuse defense attorney. DCPP caseworkers may have certain rights that allow them to talk to your child at his or her school. You, however, have a right to decline to answer questions until you speak with an attorney. It’s a good idea to politely tell DCPP caseworkers you’d like to speak with an attorney before speaking with them. Also, notify your child’s school of your wishes to prohibit interviews with your child. Then, work with an attorney to gain a better understanding of your case and the allegations at hand so you can make informed decisions about what to do and say.
Do you need assistance protecting your rights as a parent? If so, Williams Law Group, LLC can help. Our skilled child abuse defense attorneys can help you defend your rights and those of your child while involved with DCPP. Located in Short Hills, New Jersey, Williams Law Group, LLC provides compassionate and dedicated legal services to Union, Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Morris, Monmouth, and Middlesex counties, and the surrounding areas. Our knowledgeable attorneys handle divorce and family law, child custody, and child abuse/neglect cases. Call our office at (908) 810-1083, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or contact us through our confidential online form to schedule a consultation and ultimately get you connected with an experienced New Jersey divorce and child custody attorney.