Rules on Removal of a Child by DCPP in NJ
DCF Wants to Remove a Child in New Jersey
Many parents care more about their children than anything else in their lives. The idea of the state taking your child away from you may seem like an inconceivable nightmare. But it happens every day, in New Jersey and throughout the United States. If you are facing removal of your child by child protective services in New Jersey, it is extremely important to understand the circumstances under which New Jersey’s Department of Child Protection and Permanency can remove a child from a home. In certain situations, emergency removal of a child by DCPP without a court order is allowed, with specific rules, rights, and responsibilities that apply to the agency itself and parents or guardians whose families are affected.
If a child is removed, the road to reuniting families is often long and arduous. When dealing with the removal or potential removal of your child in New Jersey, the process involves multi-dimensional proceedings to request, remove, mediate, and otherwise reach a conclusion about the best interests of your child. As a parent or guardian, it is crucial to have an experienced New Jersey DCPP lawyer who can support, advise, and vigorously represent you throughout this process. Contact our DYFS attorneys at (908)-356-6900 for a free consultation and find help with your case today. We have extensive experience supporting families and protecting our clients’ best interests in the face of the often volatile process of child abuse and neglect cases.
Can DCPP Remove a Child in New Jersey?
One of DCPP’s more serious support and enforcement duties is removing a child from their family, a drastic measure not taken lightly. State law tasks DCPP with preserving family units and strengthening family life. With that being said, DCPP is tasked with placing the health and safety of any child under its jurisdiction first in any decision made regarding whether that child should stay with a particular family. Sometimes the goal of preserving family units is in direct conflict with the goal of preserving the health and safety of a child. In this situation, DCPP must prioritize keeping a child safe, as is required by law. This can mean that DCPP may consider removing a child from your home under certain circumstances.
An endangered child may be removed from parental or other custody if it is in “the best interest” of the child. In these cases, the importance of keeping a family together must be outweighed by the endangered child’s best interest if he or she is a victim of abuse or neglect. Ultimately, the state’s primary concern is children’s well- being when considering whether or not to pursue child removal proceedings.
When Can DYFS Remove a Child from the Home in NJ?
According to New Jersey law section N.J.S.A. 30:4C-1, a child may be removed from their family by DCPP in situations of “imminent danger” or risk of injury or death to a child living at home with his or her family, i.e., parents, legal guardians or legal custodians, despite available resources to the family. In instances where a child has suffered injury in a home (serious or chronic injuries that are suspicious or unusual in particular); another child has been injured or killed by a parent or guardian in the same home; or a parent is out of control due to drug or alcohol addiction or otherwise, and where DCPP has been unable to correct the situation, DCPP is authorized by state law to consider removing the child from the home. DCPP can move forward by seeking a court order to remove the child, providing notice to the parent(s) or guardian(s) of the hearing date in Superior Court.
DCPP may remove an at-risk child with or without a court order, but they must follow very specific rules regarding removal of a child from his or her home under these respective circumstances.
Removing a Child with a Court Order
DCPP may remove an endangered child from the custody of their parent(s), legal guardian or legal custodian with a court order. To obtain an order, after making reasonable efforts to avoid removal, including support services to the family (counseling, monitoring, supervision, classes, etc.) and a plan to reunite the family approved by the Deputy Attorney General, DCPP files a verified (sworn and signed) complaint with the Superior Court, Chancery Division, Family Part, for removal, either temporarily (temporary custody under N.J.S.A. 9:6-8.21, 30:4C-12, guardianship under N.J.S.A. 30:4C-15, emergency order under N.J.S.A. 9:6-8.28) or, permanently after efforts toward family reunification and an assessment that such efforts would be futile have been made.
A parent may also consent to outside placement of the child to established independent or congregate care settings, for example: foster care, shelters, group homes or in-residence schools. Specifically, a parent may consent, in writing, to child placement in congregate care or independent living circumstances if no signs of child abuse or neglect exist. A parent may also agree to surrender custody and put their child up for adoption.
Removal of a Child without a Court Order
DCPP can remove a child from a home without a court order under certain circumstances. New Jersey law only authorizes three entities to remove children from their parents’ home without a court order: police, certain probation officers, and DCPP. A treating medical provider may also protect a child in an emergency, but can only keep the child in their physical custody and must immediately notify the appropriate authorities. State law only authorizes such removals absent court order in emergency situations. DCPP must determine that there is an immediate danger to the health, safety, or even life of a child, and there is no time in which to apply for a removal order with the court. Remember, without a court order, the child’s health and safety must be immediately threatened, leaving no time to get an order. This applies to children of all ages, whether an infant in a hospital or a teenage runaway needing temporary placement.
If a Child is Removed by DCPP, What Happens Next?
As mentioned, a child in immediate danger may be removed from the custody of his parents, guardians or custodians at his or her family or residence in an emergency. If a child is removed or detained by police, probation officers or a physician, the removing or detaining authority must immediately notify DCPP. Thereafter, DCPP initiates a child protective services investigation. They may file a complaint with the Superior Court under N.J.S.A. 9:6-8.30 and a hearing must be held within 2 days of removal.
In such an emergency situation, such as where DCPP has evidence of severe ongoing physical or sexual abuse, the parents must be notified of the removal and informed about their rights and responsibilities. DCPP must notify the relevant parent(s) or guardian(s) that their child has been removed on an emergency basis, notify them of where the child has been taken, and also notify them of the date, time, and place of a removal hearing in Superior Court which must be held within two days of the emergency removal. New Jersey law also requires DCPP to inform parents or guardians that you have the right to have an attorney present at the removal hearing, and, if you cannot afford an attorney, you may utilize the services of the Public Defender’s Office in your county.
Need a Lawyer for Child Removal Case in NJ?
If DCPP is trying to remove your child or your child has been removed on a temporary or permanent basis, contact our team of skilled DCPP attorneys to discuss your case and learn your rights. We assist with a broad range of custody issues involving child services in counties throughout New Jersey, including in Bergen County, Morris County, Essex County, Hudson County, and Middlesex County. Call (908)-356-6900 now for a free consultation.