Supervised Visits Amidst Child Abuse and Neglect Accusations
When Would Supervised Visits be an Option if a Child is Removed from the Home in New Jersey?
When the Department of Child Protection and Permanency (DCPP) removes a child from their home, the primary concern is their safety and wellbeing. If there are concerns that a child may be unsafe in their family home, they still have a relationship with their parents, siblings, and others, and the department aims to keep families together when possible. According to the DCPP, the importance to the child in being part of a family is paramount. In addition, keeping children connected to their family promotes their sense of identity and belonging and allows parents opportunities to improve their relationship with their child or children. Thus, DCPP encourages and facilitates visitation with a child placed in a resource home or facility whenever possible, even supervised, if necessary.
Family Reunification, the Main Purpose of a Visitation Plan
When DCPP places a child with a relative or other appointed guardian, they immediately set up a visitation plan with family members to soften the traumatic displacement and maintain some semblance of stability and family for the child. Besides comforting the child and maintaining peace, the family visitation is also for parents to practice more mindful and safer parenting skills and work toward family reunification. The DCPP plan encompasses the long-term goal of reunification and the steps to get there if the family can comply. Thus, the department anticipates early and frequent unsupervised visitation. However, a parent or parents addicted to drugs or alcohol or accused of domestic violence may be believed to pose a danger to their child, warranting the child’s relocation and supervised visitation.
Protecting the Child’s Wellbeing Through Supervised Visitation
Supervised visitation is DCPP’s solution when children need protection from their parents or other family members. A visitation supervisor may mediate and model the parent-child relationship to help the parties maintain their connection and safeguard and promote a child’s wellbeing. For example, an aunt or uncle the child trusts and loves may supervise the visit, modeling a warm and safe relationship. But relatives are not the only ones who supervise DCPP family visitations.
Who Can be Appointed as a Supervisor?
Supervisors may be family, friends, relatives, counselors, therapists, community members, DCPP providers, or others whom the child trusts. Division supervision may be appropriate when the case is new, the department does not know the proposed visitation monitors, or the parties request the department to supervise. In any event, the caseworker assigned to the family also regularly monitors visitation to see the family’s progress and if the visitation is working for all involved. In assessing the visitation, the case worker’s observations of the interactions, body language, and parties’ reactions become part of the case file. In addition, post-visitation interviews with all the parties provide an essential perspective on the visits.
Steps in the Child Supervised Visitation Process
Once DCPP removes a child, they open a case plan for the family with goals appropriate to all involved parties. The primary goal is family reunification, if suitable. To reach that goal, the caseworker and family plan an initial visit after removal and then weekly visits, preferably long ones. The more visitation, the more practice the family gets to improve their relationships. However, that may not always be possible. Even visitations that go well at first may change when visits become stressful or harmful for the child or children despite supervision.
Thus, a caseworker could observe that the child is anxious, flinches, cries, or lashes out whenever a parent, sibling, or other member visits. This reaction may be especially prevalent when domestic violence exists, even if the violence is only suspected and yet undocumented. Alternatively, the child’s therapist may report to DCPP that the child cannot tolerate the family visits and recommends decreasing or eliminating visits temporarily, at least. A child or parent may also request visits be decreased or paused.
However, whether the DCPP plan is for the child to return home or to remain permanently with a resource or adoptive parent, frequent, flexible, and lengthy visitations fulfill the purpose of easing the child’s transition and maintaining familial ties, even if supervised. The visitation schedule is a co-creation between the family, child, siblings, relatives, community members, resource parent, monitor, or others interested in maintaining contact with the child. The first visit is in place before the child’s removal, and DCPP with the interested parties set the others up within five days of placement. The visitation plan is renegotiated every six months as the plan goals progress or change or a party request.
What if Supervised Visitation Problems Arise?
If possible, DCPP tries to address the sources of visitation problems and requests for limited visitation from the parents, despite DCPP’s encouragement to increase visitation. Thus, they may recommend individual counseling, anger management, or other resources for the visiting parties having difficulty attacking the underlying issues. In addition, they may suggest a temporarily reduced visitation schedule or revise the days and times if the program does not fit in with a parent’s availability. All interested parties work together with the department to construct a feasible visitation schedule. A visitation schedule cut back is necessary when parents miss too many scheduled visits, show up under the influence of drugs or alcohol, the parents request it, or the court prohibits contact, as when a court terminates parental rights.
Get Help Handling Supervised Visits based on Child Abuse and Neglect Investigations in New Brunswick, Hackensack, Freehold, and Toms River
If your family is involved with DCPP, contact our attorneys for help handling whatever comes your way in the investigation and the process thereafter. Just because DCPP recommends supervised visitation does not mean you should not have ample family time with your child. Be sure to voice your intentions to visit your child and get the visitation schedule in writing. And then contact a skilled Child Protection Defense Attorney at our firm who deals with DCPP investigations and child removal throughout New Jersey on a regular basis. We can advocate for your interests, work towards unsupervised visitation, fight for your visitation rights, and challenge unfounded accusations that may be preventing your family’s reunification. Since DCPP works with the court system, you want a knowledgeable New Jersey DCPP defense attorney to represent your interests. The more advice and assistance you can get from someone who knows the court system and how DCPP cases work, the better you will be able to reclaim your visitation and parental rights.
Contact our experienced child abuse and neglect lawyers handling cases on behalf of clients in Monmouth County, Bergen County, Essex County, Ocean County, Middlesex County, and elsewhere in NJ for your family’s visitation rights and reunification goals. Call (908)-356-6900 or reach out to us online for a free consultation.