What is a CARI Request in NJ?
CARI stands for Child Abuse Record Information. New Jersey law requires the Division of Child Protection and Permanency, more commonly referred to as DCP&P, to maintain a statewide Child Abuse Registry. The Registry contains the names of people who were previously found to have committed an act of child abuse or neglect. The overall purpose of the record system is to inform specific agencies or organizations that work with children that a particular individual may pose a risk and therefore, should not be hired as an employee.
The registry is not open to the public and cannot simply be reviewed by conducting an internet search. If a person or agency wishes to be informed about whether a specific person is listed on the registry, they must submit a formal request and reference the appropriate statute or regulation that allows them to view the registry. Most people or institutions are restricted from viewing the list or obtaining any information about the registry. The system is intended to assist specific employers that work with children, elderly people, or other vulnerable members of the public. Such organizations are mandated to conduct abuse and neglect background checks before hiring an applicant. The employer must submit a request to DCP&P and from there, the Division will review the registry. If the potential employee does not have a history, he or she may be hired. However, if there was a past incident of abuse or neglect, the employer cannot employ that person. Additionally, if the applicant refuses to comply with the background check, he or she is not eligible to work for that agency or facility.
Who Can be Placed on the NJ Child Abuse Registry?
A person is placed on the child abuse registry if there is a Substantiated finding against that individual. When DCP&P receives a report of abuse or neglect, the Division is required by law to investigate the complaint within 24 hours. The assigned caseworker must speak to the parents, the child, and obtain any information from any other person who may have personal knowledge about the complaint. To that end, the investigator may contact the child’s pediatrician, teachers and daycare counselors. On top of that, the caseworker will also seek to acquire medical records, educational documents such as grades or attendance records, and possibly any relevant daycare material.
Once the investigation has reached its conclusion, DCP&P will make a finding about whether an act of abuse or neglect occurred. The finding is not a simple “yes” there was abuse or “no” there were no acts of abuse. The finding will fall into four possible tiers or levels. The first tier is Substantiated, which is the most serious finding. If the Division substantiates a finding, then it was ruled that the person abused or neglected a child and there was an aggravating factor present such as death, sexual abuse, repeated acts, or serious harm resulting in hospitalization. If the Division determines the investigation was Established, that signifies that DCP&P has decided that an act of abuse or neglect occurred but there were no aggravating factors present. If the finding is found to be Not Established, then the Division has determined there was insufficient evidence to find that the person committed abuse or neglect but there was evidence that showed that the child was placed at risk of harm. Lastly, if the allegations are determined to be Unfounded, then the Division is representing that there were no acts of abuse or neglect and the child was not placed at risk of harm.
In sum, under the four-tier system, if the finding is Substantiated or Established, then there is a record that the investigated individual committed an act of child abuse or neglect of a child. If the finding was Not Established or Unfounded, then it was decided that the person did not commit an act of abuse or neglect. Only a person who was Substantiated will be placed on the child abuse registry.
Who can Access Child Abuse Records in New Jersey?
For most people, being placed on the Child Abuse Registry will not affect their life. The reason it will not affect your life is because only certain agencies and organizations can view the contents of the registry. The results of the investigation are not criminal in nature; thus, you will not have a criminal record. However, the results will be recorded and maintained by DCP&P. Nevertheless, unless you are involved with one of the below listed entities, it is unlawful for DCP&P to disclose any information about your status on the registry. The following people are required to undergo Child Abuse Record Information (CARI) checks in New Jersey:
- Child Care Center Employees,
- DCF Employees and Contracted Partners.
- Department of Human Services Employees and Contracted Partners,
- Resource Parents,
- Kinship Legal Guardians,
- Registered Family Child Care Providers,
- Division of Family Development Employees,
- Professional Guardians for the Elderly,
- Persons assuming care for children of incarcerated parents,
- Adoption Agency Employees
- Adoptive Parents
- Court-Appointed Special Advocate Volunteers
- Juvenile Justice Commission Employees
Accordingly, unless you are employed or seeking to be hired by one of the above-named groups, your record will not be viewed. Moreover, unless you are a resource parent or adoptive parent or seeking to become one, your information will not be disclosed. Therefore, it is very unlikely that your life will be impacted by a substantiated finding. It is important to note, however, that prior records of abuse can impact any new investigations that you are facing by DCPP.
How Do I Know If I Have a Child Abuse Record in NJ?
The underlying investigation is supposed to be completed in 60 days. However, it is more than common that the investigation exceeds two months. The Division is allowed to request 30-day extensions. Nevertheless, once the Division makes a determination, a letter will be mailed to your address stating the results of the investigation and DCP&P’s finding. Except in the case of a Substantiated finding, you will not be placed on the Child Abuse Registry.
If you receive a letter indicating an unfavorable finding, you should appeal the decision. Under the four-tier system, only a Substantiated or Established finding entitles the individual to a hearing. The hearing is held before the Office of Administrative Law. The appellant has a right to retain counsel, cross-examine witnesses, present witnesses of their own, and introduce any relevant documentation to help prove their case. The appeal must be submitted within 20 days after receiving the letter declaring the Division’s finding.
If the letter indicates that the finding was Not Established, you may file for an appeal but you are not entitled to a hearing. Because there was no finding of abuse or neglect, a person is not entitled a full hearing to challenge the Division’s decision. Nevertheless, a person can still submit an appeal to the Appellate Division in order to reduce the finding to Unfounded.
Have Questions about Child Abuse Records in New Jersey? Consult a NJ Child Abuse Lawyer Now
If you have questions about being placed on the Child Abuse Registry, being subject to a Child Abuse Record Information (CARI) check, or how you can potentially avoid a substantiated finding of child abuse or neglect in New Jersey, contact us now at (908)-356-6900 to speak with an attorney who can help. You can reach us online or by phone 24/7 for an absolutely free and confidential consultation.