New Jersey’s child welfare agency, the Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCP&P), is the agency that handles the removal of children from unsafe homes. Contrary to popular belief, the DCP&P doesn’t necessarily have to prove anything in a court of law before removing a child from the home. The agency has the authority to make emergency removals—called Dodd removals—without first obtaining a court order but only under exigent circumstances.
Typically, the agency must find that the child is in imminent risk of serious harm and that the risk cannot be alleviated or mitigated through services the DCP&P offers or a safety plan. In these cases, the caseworkers decide a child cannot remain in the home and be safe until changes are made. Circumstances that would warrant an emergency removal include a very young child being found alone, finding a child who has been seriously injured, or a child found in a hazardous home environment that cannot be quickly remedied.
Once the agency makes an emergency removal, it must seek a court order approving the removal at a Dodd hearing within two days of removing the child. You will be provided with a complaint from caseworkers when your child is removed, and the complaint will have information about the proceedings that will follow.
If the judge ratifies (i.e. approves) the removal at the Dodd hearing—also called Title 9 proceedings— the agency will proceed with placing the child with relatives or a resource family and working with the family on a case plan. If not, the agency must reunite the family but may ask the family to adhere to a safety plan or accept certain services to address any problems or concerns.
Given the short amount of time in which both the DCP&P and the parents have to prepare before a Title 9 proceeding, the elements addressed and the evidence offered by the agency are limited. At the hearing, the agency must demonstrate the child was at imminent risk of being harmed or injured if he or she remained in the home.
If the DCP&P has contacted you, you should learn about your rights. Speak with an experienced New Jersey child welfare agency to discuss your rights and the rights of the DCP&P. This will help you make informed decisions about your case and improve your chance of reunification.
If you have questions about permanency options, the Williams Law Group, LLC is here to help. Our skilled attorneys can provide legal guidance and defend your rights. 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.