The Role of Your Child’s Teacher in a DCPP Investigation
New Jersey’s Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCPP) investigates reports regarding child neglect and child abuse throughout the state. As such, DCPP will dispatch investigators to gather information regarding a child abuse or neglect report or referral. When conducting an investigation, one of the most important individuals these investigators may interview is often a child’s teacher(s). Beyond that, a teacher can actually report a parent or parents to DCPP if they believe that one of their students is being neglected or abused. If you have been accused of abusing or neglecting your child in New Jersey, you need to be aware of the role that a teacher may play in a DCPP investigation. To discuss your specific situation, contact our experienced team of New Jersey DCPP Defense Attorneys at (908)-356-6900. We are available immediately to assist you and consultations are free of charge.
Can a Teacher Report Abuse and Neglect in NJ?
Any person—including any teacher—who has reasonable cause to believe that a child is suffering from abuse or neglect, must immediately report that abuse to DCPP. Teachers may report this suspected abuse anonymously, meaning that you may not know that your child’s teacher is the person who made the DCPP report involving you. Teachers have an incentive to aggressively report suspected abuse. In fact, a knowing failure to report child abuse can subject a teacher to criminal liability (specifically, a disorderly persons offense under N.J.S.A. 9:6-8.14). It may also open the teacher, the school system, and school administrators up to significant civil liability for negligence. Given that teachers interact with children virtually every day and often for extended periods of time, they make a substantial portion of child abuse and neglect complaints filed with DCPP.
Can DCPP Call my Child’s Teacher?
DCPP must ordinarily commence an investigation on the same day that they receive a report of child abuse or neglect, or within 24 hours of learning that a report has been made. This means that if your child’s teacher, a neighbor, a family member, or anyone else reports you for child neglect or abuse to DCPP, investigators will respond very quickly. They will likely ask to interview you, your child, and sometimes your child’s doctor, one or more of their teachers, and anyone else who may have information about your child’s general welfare. DCPP may remove your child from your home if they feel the child is in imminent danger, after which a court hearing will be held where you can contest the allegations.
Is DCPP Allowed to Interview my Kid’s Teacher?
DCPP investigators are permitted to interview your child’s teacher(s) regarding suspected abuse and neglect without your permission, which stands in contrast to an interview with your child’s doctor. DCPP must ordinarily obtain a signed release before obtaining medical records, but not before speaking to educators. Investigators may ask teachers if your child has made any statements about abuse or neglect at home, they may ask if teachers have ever seen bruises or any other signs of abuse during interactions with your child at school, and they may ask the teacher if you have made any statements on these subjects to the teacher.
DCPP investigators may also reach out to school counselors and administrators to gather additional information related to potential abuse or neglect. While child services personnel do not have permission to file criminal charges or make arrests, they can make reports containing statements from teachers and other witnesses and forward them to law enforcement. This opens you up to criminal charges, in addition to losing custody of your children, if DCPP makes a substantiated finding against you.
What to do if Child Services Calling Your Child’s School in NJ
If child services contacted your child’s teacher or school, you may be subject to a DCPP investigation. These cases are extremely complex and are best handled by an attorney with expertise in the area of DYFS defense. We have successfully defended clients facing child abuse allegations in virtually every county in New Jersey. Contact us today at (908)-356-6900 to discuss how we can protect your best interests.