The Division of Child Protection and Permanency in NJ
The Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCPP) in New Jersey was formerly named the Division of Youth and Family Services. This agency is the child welfare and child protection agency in New Jersey. If you have been contacted by this agency, it's important to understand your rights and what to do. It is understandably difficult for people who learn that they are being investigated by the state's child protection agency. At the Ziegler Law Group, LLC, our team of attorneys includes lawyers who deal with (DCPP). Our DCCP lawyers are available to help you understand each step of the process and provide you with skilled legal representation in your case.
What is the Division of Child Protection and Permanency in NJ?
The Division of Child Protection and Permanency is the child protection and welfare agency in the state of New Jersey. The agency's mission is to ensure that children remain safe and have their well-being and the permanency of their support systems protected. DCPP investigates child abuse and neglect allegations, and when it finds that a child has been abused or neglected, it will make arrangements to protect the child. This can include removal from the home and the placement of the child in foster care. This agency has 48 offices located across the state.
If you are a parent who is being investigated for child neglect, abuse, or endangerment, you need to know how to appropriately deal with the Division of Child Protection and Permanency to protect your rights. You should take the following actions when you are under investigation for engaging in abuse, neglect, or endangerment:
- Don't retaliate against the person you suspect of reporting you.
- Don't violate the terms of a child custody and visitation order regardless of whether the other parent has denied you access to your children.
- Be civil with the investigators while also protecting your rights.
- Retain DCCP lawyers in NJ as soon as possible for legal advice and representation.
Your priority should be to protect the best interests of your child no matter the circumstances you are dealing with. Unfortunately, DCPP and parents often have conflicting beliefs about what is in the best interests of children. Because of this, you must retain an experienced lawyer who deals with DCPP when you are facing accusations of neglecting, abusing, or endangering a child.
Role of the Division of Child Protection and Permanency
DCPP is the state agency in New Jersey tasked with protecting children. It investigates any reports that it receives of neglect or abuse by conducting home visits and interviews with the members of the household, teachers, school counselors, doctors, and others. If the DCPP investigator determines a child's caregiver has endangered the child, abused the child, or neglected the child, the agency will open a case in the Superior Court and might also make findings about neglect and abuse. The agency does not file criminal cases. However, it might share information with law enforcement officers, and criminal charges might be filed based on the findings of the investigation.
When a child neglect or abuse report is filed by someone with the agency, DCPP will send a case worker to the home of the child to start an investigation. This worker will talk to you and other members of your household. To evaluate the child's safety, the caseworker will also want to see each child who lives in your home, including the child who was the subject of the abuse or neglect report.
Caseworkers are prohibited from telling you who filed the report for abuse or neglect against you. You do have the right to ask for details about the allegations. If a family refuses to let the caseworker come into the home or see the child, the agency might ask for help from a judge or the police. After the first visit to the home, the caseworker will contact others in the child's life to gather relevant information, including the child's teacher and others. The caseworker might also follow up with references for the family, including relatives, neighbors, or members of the clergy.
How Long Does DCCP Have to Investigate?
The Division of Child Protection and Permanency must complete its investigation within 60 days. Once that occurs, the agency will send a letter to you. This letter will outline the agency's findings. If the agency believes that your child is safe, the case will be terminated as unfounded. However, if the abuse, neglect, or endangerment is substantiated, this means that the agency found evidence that your child was harmed or placed at significant risk of harm. In that situation, you can expect further action, including the possibility that you will have to go through formal proceedings in court for the possible removal of your child from your home.
What Happens When a Child Protection and Permanency Case is Filed in Court?
When DCPP files a case in court, it will go through the following processes:
- Filing and service of the order to show cause and a complaint
- Preliminary hearing at which the court will make an initial determination whether there is sufficient evidence to proceed with the case
- Disposition hearing if the court finds the allegations are substantiated
- Review hearings to check whether you are following the requirements
- Permanency hearing
What Is Child Abuse or Neglect in New Jersey?
Child abuse and neglect are defined as including one or more of the following acts:
- Causing serious emotional or physical injury to a child
- Not preventing a child from suffering serious emotional or physical injury from someone else
- Placing the child at serious risk of physical harm, or allowing someone else to place them at risk
- Sexually abusing a child or letting someone else sexually abuse a child
- Failing to provide a child with proper care
- Using excessive force when physically punishing a child
- Abandoning a child
If a court finds that a child is at risk of suffering serious harm in your care, the judge can find that you neglected or abused your child even when they were not harmed. Because child abuse and neglect are defined very broadly, it is crucial to get help from experienced lawyers that deal with social services if you are facing allegations.
The agency can conclude based on its investigation that you have neglected or abused a child while your case is still pending in court. This finding is known as substantiation of neglect or abuse. The agency will notify you of its decision since substantiation can have serious consequences. The evidence will be provided to the police by the agency, and your name will be placed on the New Jersey Child Abuse Registry. Being placed on the registry can prevent you from employment and other activities that involve contact with the elderly, disabled people, or children.
If an administrative finding of substantiation is handed down, you will have 20 days to file an appeal and request an administrative hearing. If you are already facing charges in court based on the allegations, you need to give your lawyer the notice you receive immediately. Retaining a lawyer to represent you from the start of your case is important to ensure that you have strong representation throughout the process and to preserve your rights.
How to Protect Your Rights
As soon as you learn that you are being investigated for a report of neglect or abuse, you should retain an experienced attorney. Even if your child's other parent is the only one who was reported, the agency will typically name both parents in the court case. Each parent will need to retain a separate lawyer. The agency will be represented in court by a deputy attorney general, and your child will be appointed a law guardian by the court.
If you can't afford to retain a lawyer, you might qualify for a public defender through the Office of Parental Representation, which is a division of the New Jersey Office of the Public Defender. If you don't have a lawyer by the time your preliminary hearing is scheduled, you can request a continuance to give you time to retain one or have one appointed to you.
Developing a Safety Protection Plan for Your Child
Except in extraordinary circumstances, the DCPP is legally required to try to keep your family together and to work with you to create a safety protection plan. This plan might include referrals to various services that are available to help families. If you think that you need additional help, you should ask for it. Your lawyer and caseworker can help you figure out your family's needs. If the agency wants to remove your child, you should inform DCPP if you have relatives who are prepared to take your child in immediately. When DCPP removes a child, the parents will have the right to visitation with the child in most cases. Your attorney can work to secure the best possible visitation plan for you.
Talk to Our DCCP Lawyers in NJ
If you have been visited by a caseworker from the Division of Child Protection and Permanency and have learned that a report of abuse or neglect has been filed against you, you should immediately reach out to an experienced attorney at the Ziegler Law Group, LLC. Our lawyers who deal with social services will do whatever we can to protect your rights and the interests of your family. Contact us today to request a consultation by calling (973) 878-4373.
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