New Milford Man Arrested After Allegedly Leaving Three-Year-Old Son Home Alone
A man from New Milford in Bergen County NJ was recently arrested after he allegedly left his three-year-old son home alone for hours.
According to New Milford law enforcement, the 28-year-old suspect went to New York City and left his son home alone. The New Milford Police Department received a call that there was a young boy screaming for his parents. When police officers responded to the 911 call, they reportedly found the child home alone. The suspect was later arrested and charged with endangering the welfare of a child. Additionally, although the minor was unharmed, child protective services intervened and the Division of Child Protection and Permanency (“DCPP”), formerly known as the Division of Youth and Family Services (“DYFS”), took custody of the child.
This case demonstrates that in many situations involving the improper care or inadequate supervision of children, both the criminal justice system and the DCP&P may get involved. As it relates to the DYFS side, the New Milford case could result in a finding of child abuse or neglect even though the child was not actually harmed. Pursuant to N.J.S.A. 9:6-8.21, actual harm of a child is not a requirement for the Division of Child Protection and Permanency to make a “substantiated” or “established” finding of child abuse or neglect. Under New Jersey’s child abuse and neglect law, a risk of harm resulting from a parent’s recklessness in providing proper supervision may be enough for a finding of child abuse or neglect against a parent. Specifically, N.J.S.A. 9:6-8.21 (c)(4)(b) defines an “abused or neglected child” as a child whose physical, mental, or emotional condition has been impaired or is in imminent danger of becoming impaired as the result of the failure of the child’s parent to exercise a minimum degree of care in providing proper supervision by unreasonably inflicting or allowing to be inflicted harm, or substantial risk thereof. In other words, a child can be abused or neglected simply by being placed at risk of substantial harm.
When it comes to leaving a child home alone in New Jersey, there is no set age established by law that permits a child to be left home alone. An assessment by DCP&P depends on a totality of the circumstances to determine whether the child was placed at risk of harm. Given the facts of the New Milford NJ case, a three-year-old is essentially incapable of caring for himself or making any decisions as it relates to an emergency situation. In other words, leaving a three-year-old home alone is plainly a risky situation and DCP&P will most likely make a finding of abuse or neglect. However, at the end of the day, if the Division substantiates or establishes a parent or guardian for child abuse or neglect, there are still options to fight the finding: either through an administrative appeal or by putting forth a defense in Family Court during a fact-finding trial, depending upon whether the Division filed a complaint for custody or care and supervision in Family Court.
The bottom line is that if DCP&P is investigating you, has taken custody of your children, or has made a substantiated or established finding of child abuse or neglect against you, you need to speak with a qualified attorney immediately. The seasoned DCP&P defense lawyers at the Tormey Law Firm are ready to defend you and help you navigate the complex child protective services system in New Jersey.