DCP&P Investigations in New Jersey
Child Protective Services is Investigating Me in New Jersey
If you need a lawyer for a DCP&P investigation in New Jersey, we can help. Our lawyers have successfully handled hundreds of these case for clients throughout New Jersey including Morristown, Hackensack, Newark, Elizabeth, and Jersey City. Contact us now for immediate assistance and a free initial consultation.
Generally, a child welfare investigation begins when a person reports a child welfare concern. From there, a Department of Children and Families representative shall screen the report to determine whether the report contains at least one allegation which if true, would constitute a child being abused or neglected. “Abused or neglected child” means a child:
DCP&P Determines a “Safety Risk” to the Child – Now What Happens?
If a determination is made that there is a safety risk, the caseworker has two options. One, the caseworker may develop a safety plan wherein contact with the child must be supervised. Two, the child may be removed from the home and placed with a relative or into a resource home if the child is deemed to be in imminent danger. The Department may also offer services such as counseling or therapy to assist the parents during the course of the investigation in creating a safe home for the child.
It’s very important to note, the parents, guardians, or anyone who is caring for the child or children are not helpless if an investigation occurs. Every individuals’ right to remain silent and seek the assistance of an attorney is lost. No person is obligated to answer any questions posed by the caseworker and no person who required to allow the caseworker into their home. Also, if the child is removed from the home, the parents are entitled to a hearing before the Family Court to challenge the validly of the removal.
The underlying investigation is supposed to conclude within 60 days, however, upon a showing of good cause, the investigation can be extended in 30 day increments. When the investigation concludes, the Department representative shall make findings of either “substantiated,” “established,” “not established,” or “unfounded,” for each report of abuse or neglect.
An allegation shall be “substantiated” if the preponderance of the evidence indicates that a child is an “abused or neglected child” and the investigation indicates the existence of aggravating factors such as death, sexual abuse, hospitalization, or repeated acts of harm. An allegation shall be “established” if the preponderance of the evidence indicates that a child is an “abused or neglected child” but there is no showing of any aggravating circumstances. A report shall be “not established” if there is not a preponderance of the evidence that a child is an abused or neglected child, however, the evidence indicates that the child was harmed or was placed at risk of harm. Lastly, a claim shall be “unfounded” if there is not a preponderance of the evidence indicating that a child is an abused or neglected child and there is no showing which indicates that a child was harmed or placed at risk of harm.
Following a decision, the Department is required to notify the parent of its findings. The Department should notify the individual by sending him or her a letter stating the outcome of the investigation. If the letter reads the Department made a finding of substantiated or established, the person has a right to a hearing before the Office of Administrative Law to challenge the decision. To challenge the finding, he or she must notify the Office of Administrative Law within 20 days. If the letter reads not established or unfounded, there is no right to a hearing, however, the individual may file an appeal with the Appellate Division.
Contact our DCP&P Defense Lawyers Today for a Free Consultation
Accordingly, if the Department of Children and Families or the Division of Child Protection and Permanency has entered your life, you should contact a DCP&P defense attorney who is familiar with the fundamental aspects of the parent-child relationship and who is also knowledgeable of the procedural safeguards in place to prevent unnecessary DCF or DCPP involvement in your family’s life. Contact our offices now for immediate assistance at (908)-356-6900. The initial consultation is always provided free of charge.