Siblings & Relatives in New Jersey DYFS Matters
Children, siblings, relatives, and any member of the household can play a very important role in DCP&P investigations. Like any inquiry or probe, what a person says can carry a great amount of weight and can determine the fate of how a case is decided. However, what can be most alarming about a DCP&P investigation is, what a person says and how they say it, can be distorted, exaggerated, or outright omitted. Consequently, the truth of what really happened can be lost. As such, if confronted by a DCP&P caseworker, it is vital to protect yourself to ensure you and your family are protected. If you need help handling a CPS investigation anywhere in New Jersey, you’ve come to the right place. Contact our seasoned DYFS defense team 24/7 for a free consultation and personalized guidance in your case. We represent parents and caregivers across the state and we are here to assist you. Reach out by calling (908)-356-6900 today.
Making Statements when Someone Reports You to CPS
A DCP&P investigation is triggered anytime any person calls child protective services to make a report. It can also occur if a mandated reporter such as a doctor or police officer contacts the Division. Once a complaint is received, an investigator will be assigned to the case and he or she must open up an investigation. The Division will want to speak to the parents, the child or children, any member of the household, and any other person who may have personal knowledge about the case. This includes siblings and relatives. The investigator will be trying to determine if an act of child abuse occurred and what, if any, services are needed to stop this from happening again.
The investigation process is not a well controlled or monitored area of the law. The process itself is supposed to be regulated by the New Jersey Administrative Code. The code outlines exactly what steps the Division is obligated to take when investigating a family. However, “supposed to be regulated” is the appropriate terminology because the code is rarely followed by the Division and seldom enforced by our justice system. As a result, DCP&P tends to violate the law with impunity and in turn, parents are wrongfully deemed abusers.
To better clarify the situation, let’s say that the police are investigating a person. Unquestionably, the police are obligated to follow the law. One of the most common challenges to a criminal investigation is the police violated the Fourth Amendment, that being, they search an individual in an unlawful manner. If such a challenge is raised, the court will hold a hearing and if the Judge finds that a violation occurred, the evidence will be excluded from the case. Moreover, if enough evidence is excluded, the case may be dismissed all together. Another common challenge is the police questioned a suspect without first reading them their Miranda rights. Again, if such a concern is raised, the court will conduct a hearing and potentially exclude the wrongfully obtained statement.
Accordingly, the criminal justice system has a mechanism to protect citizens and deter police from violating the law. On the other hand, this is not the case with DCP&P investigations. Most claimed violations are ignored and as a consequences, many parents suffer severely. With that in mind, it’s vital to protect yourself and your family from overzealous investigators.
Can DYFS Talk to my Child without my Permission?
The caseworker will want to speak to every member of the household. Keep in mind, you do not have to cooperate. There is no statute, regulation, code, or court rule that says you must speak to the Division. Same applies to any other person, including siblings and relatives. There is no legal duty to cooperate. If you are not prepared to give a statement, it is best to say no. Further, the investigator will want to interview everyone separately and alone. This is very problematic for young children. Again, if this was a criminal case, a parent or guardian would have to be present and the interrogation would be recorded and supplied to the Defense Attorney. However, for DCP&P cases, no such rule is in place. Thus, the caseworker can intimidate or manipulate the minor into saying something negative. Moreover, the investigator can draft a report and tell the Judge inaccurate information and the parent has nothing to contradict the caseworker.
Also, during questioning, the caseworker will undoubtedly ask every child in the house whether they have been struck by their parents and whether their parents hit one another. They will also be asked if their parents use drugs or have friends visit and use drugs. Even if the underlying complaint has nothing to do with domestic violence or drugs, those types of questions will be posed and the answers to those questions may turn a minor case into a more severe matter. On top of that, the investigator will likely inspect the children’s body to see if there are any marks or bruises. Unfortunately, it is common for small children to have marks on their bodies. Most children enjoy horseplay, which in turn, results in cuts, scraps, and bruises. Nonetheless, such marks can be wrongfully interpreted.
DCPP Wants to Question my Family, Should I Allow it?
With all that said, it seems like it is best to simply to ignore the Division. Unfortunately, it is not that simple. If a family impedes the investigation, the Division can petition the Court and seek to compel cooperation. Thus, refusing to speak will not always be beneficial. The best approach is to find the right balance between cooperation and protection.
For example, most caseworkers will demand that the parents sign medical releases and submit to drug screens and evaluations. Complying with all their demands is too favorable to the Division. Do not sign any authorizations and do not utilize any DCP&P tests and evaluators. Their tests and physicians may be biased and will frequently give unfavorable reports. However, a fair and balanced alternative is to contact your own doctor to obtain your records and from there, you can turn over what you deem is relevant, instead of having a stranger examine your entire personal history. Likewise, you can hire your own private physicians to conduct private drug screens and evaluations to ensure the results are fair.
With respect to statements and how siblings and relatives play a role in the case, if a sibling is older and you believe he or she will not be coerced by the Division, you may want him or her to be interviewed. This is true especially if you feel they will provide favorable information. The same goes for any relative. Since the investigation is not limited to family members, a parent can offer any person who may have personal knowledge about the case. Therefore, if a friend, neighbor, teacher, daycare employee, or the like, can offer positive material, you should consider having that person talk to the Division.
When DYFS Comes Calling in NJ, Have Defense at Your Fingertips
Please be aware, this is not a full-proof plan to remove child protective services from your life. Nonetheless, it may be a helpful guide for families. The best thing for any family to do is to contact an experienced child abuse defense attorney for assistance. Having helped numerous families like yours in New Jersey, our law firm is prepared to guide you and defend you. Contact us at (908)-356-6900 to discuss your circumstances involving DYFS free of charge.