When the New Jersey Department of Children and Protection and Permanency must intervene with a family, it typically means that the family is not functioning in such a way as to ensure the best interest of the children is always being safeguarded. Although many people think of the DCPP as an agency whose purpose is to drive a wedge in families, the real mission of the agency is to protect children and to help families stay together whenever possible. This is not, however, always possible, and in some situations, the DCPP may seek to have your children removed from your care. If this occurs, the DCPP is obligated to seek out the “least restrictive setting.”
New Jersey law recognizes that removing children from their home is disruptive and can even be traumatic. Children crave stability, and the more stability that can be provided in such an upsetting situation, the better the children will likely do with the transition. To that end, the DCPP is obligated to seek out and consider a placement that is the least restrictive setting for the children. This is one with whom the children have a degree of familiarity. In general, this tends to be a family member or a close friend of the family. In some cases, this could also be a foster home with whom the children have been placed during previous DCPP cases.
When determining whether a placement is appropriate and the best possible least restrictive placement, the DCPP will need to consider serval factors. The potential placement must be willing to assure the child’s ongoing care and safety and also protect the children from the parents, where necessary. The potential placement must support the DCPP’s case plan, and in some situations, the DCPP may even request that the placement participate in services, as well. The placement must be willing to actively participate in and cooperate with the home study process. Ultimately, the placement must meet the licensing requirements for resource family care. Finally, the placement must be willing to make a commitment to the care of the children on the very least, a short term basis. The DCPP is also committed to placing the children together with their siblings whenever possible.
Least restrictive placement also refers to geographical region, and the best placement will be one in the same physical area as the children’s home, and which allows the children to stay in the same school and maintain the same friends and basic daily schedule.
If you are involved in a DCPP case as a parent or as a potential placement, call us today. We can talk with you about the law and how to move forward.
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out the “least restrictive setting.”