Abuse and Neglect in Single Parent Households
The statistics on children being abused and neglected by single parents do not paint a positive picture, and DCPP investigates these cases with astounding frequency in New Jersey.
That being said, you are not a statistic. Your family is undoubtedly unique and you deserve to defend your parenting if child protective services is investigating you. Good people go through hard times. Sometimes life crushes a hard-working person trying to do the right thing. But well-intentioned people marry, have kids, and get divorced. They get sick, lose jobs, and fall off their intended paths. When suffering a downturn or just the circumstances of life’s journey, a parent may be alone with the overwhelming responsibility of caring for a child when they are least supported. Most importantly, a single parent who faces a DCPP complaint for abuse and neglect can retain their own attorney to represent their interests. A qualified DCPP lawyer with in-depth knowledge of DCPP and child abuse cases in New Jersey can advocate for a single parent to maintain their parental and custodial rights to their children. Contact a skilled attorney on our defense team if DCPP investigates you or files a complaint against you. We can immediately assist you and talk to you about your specific case in a free consultation. Call (908)-356-6900 today.
Abuse and Neglect is Common among Single Parents
Unfortunately, children in single parent homes typically suffer more violent abuse than children in two-parent homes, most prominently due to poverty. A study published in Pediatrics found that over 10,000 children up to four years old died from abuse, disproportionately in economically disadvantaged homes. Life in poverty makes it extremely difficult for a single parent to provide food, education, and safety, especially in neighborhoods where gun violence is prevalent.
Compared to two-parent families, children raised by a single mother, in particular, perform less well academically, act out in school more and get suspended, graduate from high school less frequently, and do not go on to college. They tend to commit more crime and populate the jails and prisons more than children from married couples. They may find little success in the job market and are more likely to find themselves single parents too. Thus, some end up less educated, more frustrated and angrier, and less able to maintain employment or obtain gainful employment.
The frustrations of single motherhood that lead to abuse potentially affect their children for a lifetime. Single mothers are more likely to abandon their children also, often leaving a child with someone without returning to retrieve the child. As such, single parents run the risk of being accused of harming their children by neglect or abuse and thus, risk losing their child to the state’s child and family protective services. And yet, not every single parent or their child should be lumped into this category.
What Happens if DCPP Looks into a Single Mother or Father?
The Department of Child Protection and Permanency (DCPP) investigates families upon information that a child suffers abuse or neglect. If necessary to protect a child, they will remove the child from a dangerous home. Thus, when single parents abuse their children, they may lose their children temporarily or permanently. Single mothers especially, find themselves trapped in poverty and thus, without the financial resources and support that relieve others with co-caretakers or babysitters, are more likely angry, frustrated, and violent with their children. Many live in high crime neighborhoods, which may be an additional factor for DCPP to assess during an investigation. If a single mother leaves her young children alone in a dangerous neighborhood, even to go get medicine or groceries, she may be suspected and deemed responsible for neglect by DCPP standards. Coupled with violence and abuse, a single parent could end up fighting in court for their children.
Actionable neglect and abuse are a DCPP judgment call based on specific DCPP criteria, including the degree of danger to the child and prevailing circumstances. For example, if a parent repeatedly subjects their child to risks, DCPP is likely to find parental neglect or abuse. Still, even one careless severe act, like leaving a baby alone with a drunk friend, may be enough. And single parents without viable options may not have as much choice about who they leave their children with, a violent boyfriend or neighbor who does drugs without the parent’s knowledge, for example. Thus, if a concerned adult reports child abuse or neglect to DCPP, it may spur an investigation to determine whether DCPP will remove the child from home pending further investigation or whether the child can remain with the parent.
Parenting Alone and Now Child Services is Investigating, Now What?
If a child is in danger, DCPP can place the child with relatives or the other parent. If none exist, they can put the child in foster care. However, investigating the probability of further neglect is part of the determination and placement. Thus, a single mother with few skills, substance addiction or mental illness and few prospects of obtaining employment sufficient to maintain a household and pay childcare may be found to be incapable of providing a safe home. This family split could be devastating for a single parent with no help or reserves.
On the other hand, DCPP can provide resources to a family to help them make a fit home for a child in the form of counseling, medication, employment, childcare, or other needs to enable a single parent to maintain or regain custody. Fortunately, the plan DCPP devises for the family to reunite or remain together provides immediate solutions to protect a child and steps for the parent to address the root causes of the issues. As such, employment, mental health counseling, vocational counseling, anger management, substance abuse programs, and other resources may be provided to a single parent to improve their life and that of their child’s, but the odds are not always in their favor.
Contact our New Jersey Firm Defending Parents for Immediate Assistance
While DCPP can work with families to ensure child safety, they are not advocates for parents and file complaints against parents of neglected or abused children. Thus, a parent’s attorney is essential for defending their rights. We have years of background and are well-versed in the very complicated and specific rules and regulations that govern abuse and neglect cases brought by New Jersey’s child protection agency. If you need legal guidance and representation for a case, contact us to receive a free consultation right away.