Understanding the Results of a DCP&P Investigation
If the New Jersey Division of Child Protection and Permanency receives a referral alleging child abuse or neglect, the Division must initiate an investigation. No matter how frivolous the complaint may seem, the Division is required to undergo an investigation. The investigation will involve interviewing the parents and the child as well as any person who may have personal knowledge of the situation. In addition, the Division must inspect the child’s home and may also request the parents to undergo evaluations or submit to drug tests. If you are undergoing a child abuse or neglect investigation by the state or you’re wondering about what the results mean, continue reading and please feel free to contact our office to speak with an experienced NJ DCPP lawyer about your specific case. Call (908)-356-6900 now or fill out our online form to begin your conversation.
What are the possible results of DCP&P investigating me?
While a child abuse & neglect investigation is typically required to reach its end within 60 days, the time period can be extended if the Division needs additional time. At the conclusion of the investigation, the Division will notify the parents by way of letter of its findings. Prior to 2013, the Division could only make two types of findings: Substantiated or Unfounded. Substantiated meant that the Division concluded that the allegations were true and the parents abused or neglected their child. Unfounded meant that the complaint was false or the Division could not prove the allegations.
Following 2013, new regulations took effect and instead of two possible outcomes, the findings were expanded into four different categories. The purpose of the new system was to allow the Division to make more specific conclusions to accurately reflect the particular circumstances of each case.
Four Finding System in New Jersey
The first finding is Substantiated, which means that the Division has determined that the child or children of the home were abused or neglected and there exists an aggravating factor. The second finding is Established, which is defined as a showing of child abuse or neglect but, upon consideration of the aggravating and mitigating factors, the act or acts do not warrant a finding of substantiated. The third finding is Not Established, which means that the Division can show by a preponderance of the evidence that an act of child abuse or neglect occurred, however, the investigation did reveal that the child or children of the home were harmed or placed at risk of harm. The fourth finding is Unfounded, which means that the Division did not find any child abuse or neglect and they did not find that the child was harmed or placed at risk of harm.
Aggravating and Mitigating Factors for DCP&P Findings
To help guide the Division and ensure uniformity, the state is supposed to consider the following aggravating and mitigating factors to determine the appropriate findings. If the Division finds the existence the certain absolute aggravating factors, the Division must conclude that the findings are Substantiated. The absolute factors include the death or near death of a child, sexual abuse, hospitalization of a child, repeated instances of physical abuse, and/or depriving the child of necessary care.
In addition to the absolute factors, the Division should also consider other aggravating factors such as institutional abuse or neglect, the parent’s failure to comply with court orders, the tender age of the child, any lasting physical, psychological, or emotional impact on the child, or isolating the child. These factors do not automatically warrant a finding of Substantiated but may be utilized to support of finding of Substantiated or Established, depending of the severity.
Lastly, the Division must also consider any mitigating factors such as, any remedial actions taken by the parents, any stressors that may have caused the parents to act in an uncharacteristic manner, the isolated or aberrational nature of the abuse or neglect; and whether the child merely suffered minor harm.
Impact of the Finding in a New Jersey DCPP Case
If the Division does make a finding against a parent, it is important to remember the investigation is not criminal in nature. Therefore, the parents have not been convicted of any crimes and do not have a criminal record. However, the finding results may have an impact on the parent’s life, depending on the level of the finding.
Generally, the investigation and the results are deemed highly confidential. Therefore, they cannot be disclosed by the Division. However, there are a few exceptions. If the Division concludes that the allegations are Substantiated, the results will be recorded in the Child Abuse Registry Inventory. If a person’s name is recorded in the inventory, certain agencies such as child care centers, adoption agencies, and foster care facilities can examine the registry. Also, the investigative findings will be recorded by the Division and if they receive another referral, they may utilize the past case.
If the Division concludes that the allegations are Established or Not Established, the results will only be recorded in the Division’s records and like Substantiated, may be utilized if another referral is received. If the Division declares that the claims are Unfounded, the results will be maintained by the Division but will be expunged after three years.
Need Help Understanding DCP&P Case Results in NJ?
If you are having difficulty understanding the findings in your DCP&P case in New Jersey, the attorneys at our firm can help. Contact us today at (908)-356-6900 and get a better idea of what the outcome in your child abuse investigation means, what your legal options are, and if you can appeal the State’s decision. We can be reached anytime to assist you and provide the information you need now.