Importance of Profiling Children with Special Needs in DCPP Cases in NJ
Identifying the Strengths and Needs of Children With Special Needs Becomes Paramount to Secure Their Best Interests when New Jersey Child Protective Services Becomes Involved.
The New Jersey Department of Child Protection and Permanency (formerly known as DYFS) is responsible for protecting the welfare of children in the state. Children with special needs, whether mental, emotional, learning, or physical in nature, require extra attention in these cases to ensure that their needs are met. The child may require special medical attention, physical therapy, cognitive therapy, evaluations, treatment, and support. It is the role of the caretaker to facilitate these needs being met and the role of DCPP to verify that the child’s needs are met.
Oftentimes, a child involved in a DCPP case may be removed from their parent’s home and placed into the care of a relative or foster parent. While caring for a special needs child can be fulfilling work, it can also be very difficult. Children with special needs who are also facing stressful and possibly even dangerous situations at home may experience setbacks to their treatment and development. Individuals who take on the role of caretaker to these children may be completely unfamiliar with the child’s needs and inexperienced at facilitating the type of care they require. However, caregivers who are patient and dedicated to the child’s well being can find help from many resources including a DCPP attorney who can guide them through DCPP assessments and their legal obligations.
Determining the Strengths and Needs of Children in DCPP Cases
A child strengths and needs assessment is a critical component of any DCPP case; however, these assessments prove even more valuable in cases involving children with special needs to ensure that their needs are identified and adequate services to support the child’s treatment and development are obtained. Within 60 days of initiating a DCPP case, the Division is required to conduct its first child strengths and needs assessment. Thereafter, reassessments are conducted at intervals of either six months for children who remain in the home with their parents or guardians, or three months for children removed from the home and placed in another environment. Children who are removed from the home are reassessed more frequently to ensure they are in the appropriate setting and receiving the proper solutions, referrals, and services.
What Happens in a DCPP Strengths and Needs Assessment for a Special Needs Child?
During these assessments, DCPP will identify the strengths and needs of the child, develop a service plan based on their needs, and monitor the services they receive and the child’s changing needs. Sometimes, a child’s special needs may not even be identified until they undergo a DCPP strengths and needs assessment, particularly if the child has been in an abusive or neglectful home and has not yet been enrolled in school. DCPP’s child strengths and needs assessments can not only be used to identify a child’s needs, but also to track their progress over time.
In its efforts to understand the child individually in order to provide the appropriate setting, solutions, referrals, and service plan, CPS will conduct their assessments and continue to monitor the child’s development and response to the current plan in place. Reassessments help to inform caseworks about the child’s progression, the effectiveness of the services they are receiving, and what changes, if any, should be made to their service plan. This may include educational services in coordination with the child’s school district outlined in an Individualized Education Plan (IEP).
Significance of the Individualized Education Plan (IEP) for a Special Needs Child being Monitored by the Division
Of course, children who are in school and may even have an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) in place are still likely to suffer in an environment that does not adequately support their needs and may require additional or different services than those they receive through school.
An Individualized Education Plan (IEP) is an individualized plan created by professionals in special education to meet the educational needs of a child with a disability. Children between the ages of 3 to 21 who have a disability or are having difficulty in school may be entitled to a planned educational program that suits their needs. This plan is set forth in an IEP. They are also entitled to related services, to be educated in the least restrictive environment possible, and to be included in the general education classroom when possible.
The need for an IEP may be identified in DCPP’s child strengths and needs assessment, or the child may have an existing IEP. While your case manager and administrators at the child’s school can help to answer your questions, it is important to remember that while DCPP exists to protect the welfare of a child, a special needs child’s caretakers often know them best and bear the responsibility for ensuring they receive necessary services. As a caretaker, you also serve the role of the child’s advocate, and fulfilling that responsibility often requires the support of other experts around you.
A Seasoned NJ Lawyer Can Help You Deal with DCPP and Special Needs Children Situations
Whether you are a family member with custody of a special needs child involved in a DCPP case or the parent of one, it is important to understand your child’s rights, so you can help serve their best interests and be an advocate for them. You may be concerned that your child’s placement may lead to an interruption of the special services, treatment, or therapies they are receiving. You may also be concerned about the impact to your child’s services and needs if their placement results in a change of school districts.
If you find yourself navigating the world of IEPs and DCPP assessments with a special needs child, you do not have to tackle this alone. A DCPP experienced attorney can help you to understand the role of DCPP in your special needs child’s care and be an effective advocate for them. Our team of lawyers helps parents and caretakers with children with special needs at our local offices around New Jersey, including in Hackensack, Newark, Morristown, and New Brunswick. For more information about how we can help you, contact us today at (908)-356-6900 for a free consultation.