Leading Causes of Child Neglect, Abuse, and Mistreatment

CPS Attorneys Discuss Contributing Factors for Children Experiencing Abusive or Neglectful Behavior by Parents and Caregivers

Causes of Child Abuse and Child Neglect in New JerseyNo child deserves to be abused or neglected, yet so many children are born into circumstances that make them more likely to suffer from violence or deprivation. According to Childhelp, an organization for child abuse prevention, about five children a day die from maltreatment in the United States. And those who survive have shorter lifespans due to heart, lung, and liver diseases arising from child abuse. Given these facts, state child protective agencies, including New Jersey’s Division of Child Protection and Permanency, aim to assess and identify at-risk children and families, understanding that certain factors contribute to child mistreatment. Read on to learn more about the contributing circumstances and red flags that increase child neglect and abuse incidence.

The Profile of a Child at Higher Risk for Abuse or Neglect

For starters, the profile of a child most likely to be abused or neglected is mentally or physically disabled, young, and female. However, sexual abuse victims tend to be female adolescents. Most often, prematurity, congenital disabilities, low birth weight, or exposure to in utero toxins create children more likely to be abuse victims. Mothers who neglect themselves while pregnant may not eat healthy foods or quit tobacco or drugs. Children of these parents end up with distant or difficult personalities, mental or physical disabilities, or chronic illnesses. They may be socially disconnected or aggressive. Schools label them as behavior problems or diagnose them with attention deficit disorder. They typically come from depressed or antisocial families, with parents displaying poor impulse control, depression, anxiety, high frustration, insecurity, and low trust and self-esteem.

Characteristics of At-Risk Families

Moreover, at-risk families repeat family history in their current behaviors. At-risk families typically contain members who engage in substance abuse or are products of childhood abuse themselves. Abusive parents often come from abusive parents, and childhood sexual abuse victims often become sexual and physical abusers. Other factors include domestic violence and poor communication and parenting abilities. Dysfunctional families are typically poor and violent, with unemployed and socially isolated parents who cannot provide medical or childcare or proper education for their children. They may be homeless or live in dangerous neighborhoods. Typically, they lack community connection and therefore have no support or mentors, as the family often consists of a single parent living with several children. Thus, the sole parent may be highly stressed, non-communicative with their children, and combative with a divorcing spouse or parent who abandoned the family. As a result, the environment for children is harmful, stressful, and non-supportive.

Community and Societal Factors Promoting Child Neglect and Abuse

Outside factors that promote child abuse and neglect include legal and societal parameters and values. For instance, violence in society and the media that families engage with, such as computer games, movies, music, and television, “normalizes” violence. And politics and religion foster family insularity. In other words, family matters are private, so government interference is unwelcome. And legal definitions of what constitutes child abuse or neglect are confined to specific acts. Social opinions about abuse, neglect, and poor parenting are subjective, but the legal definition of what constitutes neglect or abuse is precise, measuring the degree and type of harm.

How do Risk Factors Influence Results of Child Protective Services Cases in NJ?

New Jersey law defines child abuse and neglect as injury or the risk of injury to a child, physical, mental, emotional, or sexual, by a parent or caregiver. The injury may be action or inaction by the parent or caregiver and may have occurred once or in a series of events that constitute a pattern of abuse or neglect. The definition and risk indicators listed in New Jersey’s Department of Children and Families manual guide the Child Protection and Permanency (CP&P) division in recognizing abuse or neglect.

Thus, when DCP&P investigates a report of abuse or neglect, they assess the situation based on the known contributing factors and signs of mistreatment. Their investigation may find the claim of abuse or neglect substantiated, established, not established, or unfounded. They may seek to remove the child from the home if substantiated, especially if they find repeated physical abuse, serious medical neglect, or improper sexual activity. Anything less than these indicators, DCP&P looks to aggravating and mitigating factors, such as chronic neglect or abuse and its permanent emotional effects on the child, or, if it is the only incident due to unusual circumstances. So, if a parent has no history of abuse, the division considers what they do with the child. If there are more aggravating than mitigating factors, the case is substantiated.

If substantiated, the parents must work with DCP&P to get services. In addition, the parents’ information is added to the Child Abuse Registry permanently. However, they may appeal to the division’s finding and request not to add them to the Registry. However, if established, DCP&P found that more mitigating than aggravating factors exist, but the parents do not get added to the Registry. A finding of established is also subject to appeal. A not established conclusion means the division established no proof of abuse or neglect, and an unfounded finding suggests the division found no harm or injury to the child. A substantiated and established finding is permanent and can affect a parent’s future employment or ability to foster children. As such, parents may wish to hire an attorney to appeal the findings, or if the parents are defendants in an action for removal, to defend them against the charges.

Contact a Talented Member of our New Jersey CPS Defense Team for Immediate Assistance

If your family is under investigation by the Division of Child Protection and Permanency, you need good representation to protect your parental rights. As highly attuned, experienced CPS defense lawyers with experience defending parents against neglect and abuse charges and investigations, we understand how DCP&P investigates and decides to remove children and charge parents with child abuse. We can help you no matter what the case may be, whether you need assistance to file your appeal, challenge the allegations, or emphasize the mitigating factors of your case. A member of our legal team is available to provide you with a free consultation now by contacting (908)-356-6900. We can also help you to best handle state agency caseworkers and prosecutors, and appear with you at your hearings in Family Court to ensure you get an opportunity to present your case to the judge. Do not wait to get experienced representation. Contact our New Jersey offices in Hackensack, Morristown, Newark, and New Brunswick today.

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