Roadmap of a DCPP Investigation Process

Timeframe and Phases in the DCPP Investigation Process

Timeframe and Phases in the DCCP Investigation Process in New JerseyDCPP stands for the Division of Child Protection and Permanency, which is the child welfare agency in the state of New Jersey. The agency is responsible for investigating allegations of child abuse and neglect, providing services to families needing support, and ensuring the safety and well-being of children in the state. DCPP’s mission is to protect children from harm and to help families address the issues that may be contributing to the mistreatment of their children. The agency also works to find permanent homes for children who are unable to return to their families safely.

How is the Investigation Process Initiated?

When the DCPP agency receives information that claims a child is being abused or neglected, a case file is opened. Abuse allegations come from teachers, neighbors, health care providers, family members, or friends. Once the authorities receive allegations, an initial assessment is conducted. If more evidence is discovered that supports the accusations, the case will be assigned to a caseworker who will start an investigation.

DCPP Timeframe to Start the Investigation

The amount of time that the Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCPP) has to begin an investigation can vary depending on the circumstances of the case. In general, however, DCPP is required by law to initiate an inquiry within 24 hours of receiving a report of suspected child abuse or neglect. In some cases, DCPP may determine that an immediate response is necessary to protect the safety and well-being of the child. In these situations, the agency may take emergency action, such as removing the child from the home or obtaining a court order to ensure the child’s safety.

If the report is not deemed an emergency, DCPP may have up to 72 hours to initiate an investigation. During this time, the agency will conduct an initial assessment to determine whether the report meets the criteria for investigation and whether there is reasonable suspicion that a child is being abused or neglected.

Deadline for the First Stage of the DCPP Investigation

The first stage must be completed within 14 days.  Then it will be determined if sufficient evidence exists to proceed with a full investigation.

How Long Does DCPP Have After Starting To Investigate?

In theory, DCPP has 60 days to give their investigatory findings. Still, extensions may be provided if they are waiting on information such as doctor’s reports or therapist’s notes which are being completed continually and require a broader picture than 60 days can provide.

Steps in the Process of a DCPP Investigation

The Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCPP) investigation process in New Jersey typically involves the following steps:

The investigation begins when DCPP receives a report of suspected child abuse or neglect. Reports can come from various sources, including mandated reporters such as teachers, healthcare providers, law enforcement officials, and members of the public who have reason to believe that a child is being mistreated. Reports can be submitted anonymously through a hotline number (1-877-NJ ABUSE), where they are screened, and DCPP local offices have a procedure in place to receive reports from walk-ins. After the screening process, an investigation will be opened if there is enough reason for concern.

Initial Assessment

After receiving a report, DCPP will conduct an initial assessment to determine whether the report meets the criteria for investigation. If the report is deemed credible and there is reasonable suspicion that a child is being abused or neglected, DCPP will initiate an investigation. Parents will not be told who submitted the report but will explain their concerns as precisely as possible.

DCPP will decide if the allegations should be referred to CPS (Child Protective Services) because there is suspicion of child abuse or neglect or to CWS (Child Welfare Service) where the isn’t enough evidence to justify an investigation. Still, an offering of services would be beneficial.

During the investigation, a caseworker will gather information from various sources, including the child and his or her family members and any other relevant parties. The caseworker may also interview teachers, doctors, law enforcement officials, and others who may have information about the situation.

In addition to gathering information, the caseworker will also assess the safety and well-being of the child and determine whether any immediate action is needed to protect the child from harm. If the child is in immediate danger, the caseworker may remove them from the home and place them in protective custody.

Making a Determination

After completing the investigation, the caseworker will decide whether abuse or neglect has occurred and, if so, what actions should be taken to ensure the child’s safety and well-being. This may involve providing services to the family, such as counseling or parenting classes, or filing a petition with the court to remove the child from the home and place him or her in foster care.

There are four possible determinations at the close of an investigation. If a preponderance of the evidence shows abuse or neglect, it is labeled as “substantiated.”  A decision of “established” affirms the accusations but provides mitigating circumstances. An allegation found to be “not established” occurs when there was neither abuse nor neglect, but evidence exists to show the child was harmed in some way or was at risk of harm. An allegation “unfounded” indicates the child was not abused or neglected, nor were they placed at risk of injury.

If abuse or neglect is substantiated, DCPP will work with the family to develop a case plan that outlines the steps needed to ensure the child’s safety and well-being. The case plan may include specific services or treatment programs that the family must participate in and regular monitoring by DCPP to ensure progress.

Once the case plan has been completed and the child is deemed safe, DCPP will close the case. However, if the agency determines that the child is still at risk of harm, the case may remain open and ongoing services may be provided to the family.

Factors That Can Prolong or Shorten an Investigation

A formal investigation is usually two months. During this time, the caseworker assigned to the case collects the comprehensive information obtained from the interviews and home visits, along with recommendations by the mental health team to determine whether abuse or neglect has occurred. If the investigation is difficult to complete, the caseworker can apply for an extension of two more months.

There are factors that can make a Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCPP) investigation shorter. The first is a cooperative family. A family that makes its appointments, is open and forthcoming when speaking with the caseworker, and is willing to follow the indications given in terms of parenting classes, providing the child with their own space to sleep, and others. A skilled caseworker will also conduct the investigation more efficiently. They will know which next steps are best to keep the case moving.

Many factors can contribute to making an investigation longer. If the family stays tight-lipped and does not go to required interviews, therapy, or parenting classes, it does not bode well for a quick case. If multiple parties are alleged to have harmed the children, it can slow the process down. If the caseworker must involve the courts to get a restraining order to protect the child, remove them from the home, or even move for complete termination of parental rights, this can lengthen a resolution. Finally, it can be challenging if the family doesn’t speak English. The DCPP has translators for common languages such as Spanish, French, and Mandarin, but other languages are harder to find in terms of interpreters.

Reasons That May Justify Asking for an Extension

Whenever necessary, the investigator assigned should approach the court requesting an extension of their investigation time frame. Focusing on cases that involve multiple sources of information, parties, or allegations will demand extended scrutiny and a longer investigative period. Moreover, if there are challenges encountered by case workers denying them access to particular data held by medical providers and schools, among others, at any point of the investigation, then it would take more time than normal. Uncooperative parents can also cause an investigation to stall

What is the Allotted Time for Filing an Appeal?

A period of 20 days is given to submit an appeal.  Once this time has passed, the opportunity to oppose DCPP’s decision could be lost.

Face the DCPP Investigation Process with Guidance from Our Seasoned Attorneys

Our attorneys concentrating in DCPP (Division of Child Protection and Permanency) cases can provide various services to help a parent facing an investigation or litigation by DCPP.  We can advise you about your legal rights and obligations during a DCPP investigation or litigation. We can explain the process, potential outcomes, and legal consequences of different outcomes during the process and help you make informed decisions about how to proceed. It’s scary to think about the possibility of losing custody of your children. We can advocate for you throughout the DCPP process and protect your rights.  Having experienced representation in a DCPP case can prove invaluable in Parsippany, Freehold, Warren, Woodbridge, Paramus, Millburn, Livingston, New Brunswick, Jersey City, and across the state of New Jersey. Call us today at (908)-356-6900 or contact us online for your confidential cost-free consultation.

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