Child Welfare Concerns

January 5, 2021

Parents and caregivers facing allegations of child abuse and neglect by the Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCPP) may have their parental rights challenged. Although the objective of Title 30 is to protect the child’s best interests, there can be far-reaching implications for everyone involved. The DCPP investigates allegations of child abuse and neglect. They are also responsible for safeguarding children’s welfare and protecting them from mistreatment.

A lawyer will represent an individual involved in the following litigation:

  • Abuse and neglect of children
  • Termination of parental rights
  • Grandparents’ rights
  • Administrative matters

What are Child Protection Investigations?

Title 9 and Title 30 are state laws that require the DCPP to investigate any reports they receive about children being abused or neglected. These workers may be sent to private homes to get information pertaining to the allegations, which is called a child protection investigation. Once the DCPP receives a report, they have to start their investigation within 24 hours.

The DCPP reports are not made against family members or caregivers since they are completed on behalf of the child. Investigators are not required to inform the household ahead of time, and they do not need a warrant. When this happens, it can be daunting and confusing, but most families are willing to cooperate.

A parent has the right to ask the investigators for identification. The investigators are mandated to provide their names and phone numbers, their supervisor’s contact information, basic details about the alleged abuse or neglect, and that the report was made to the DCPP. The DCPP does not reveal who made the report.

What Happens During the Investigation?

During the investigation, the workers will speak to any children in the home and other members of the household. Afterwards, the child’s doctors, teachers, neighbors, family friends, relatives, and other people may also be interviewed. The investigator will look for safety and risk factors and may recommend creating a Child Safety Protection Plan. Anyone who has a significant relationship with the child or family may be able to provide information. No one is required by law to speak with the investigators when they first show up. A family who refuses to allow the DCPP to investigate may have to deal with law enforcement or the court.

The DCPP investigators do not have the authority to arrest anyone or file criminal charges. If they suspect or have evidence of serious physical injuries, sexual abuse, or a fatality, they are required to notify the County Prosecutor’s Office. If they feel that the child is in imminent danger, the investigators are allowed to remove the child without a court order, which is referred to as an emergency removal. Investigators will need to have a court order in two days, and the parent or caregiver will receive a notice ordering them to appear in court. At this time, the court will determine if the removal was appropriate and if the child should remain where they have been placed.

Investigative Findings

After the initial visit, the investigation should be closed in two months. Afterwards, the DCPP makes its finding, and they will send a letter to the parent or caregiver. There are four classifications for findings: substantiated, established, not established, and unfounded. Substantiated claims can lead to the child being removed from the home; the parent or caregiver’s name will also be placed on the child abuse registry. This registry is not for public information, but it can be accessed by the DCPP and some employers. Established and not established findings mean that there may be some evidence of abuse or neglect, and the information will only be kept in the DCPP records. In these situations, it may be possible to file an appeal with the Appellate Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey.

Factors that lead to substantiated claims include inflicting physical injury, repeated physical abuse, subjecting the child to sexual activity or materials, the death or near-death of the child, or depriving the child of needed care that led to serious harm. Failing to take reasonable action to protect a child from abuse can also qualify as a substantiated claim. These factors can be aggravated by the child’s young age, long-term physical and emotional impacts, the abuser failing to comply with agreed-upon safety plans or court orders, and a documented pattern of abuse.

What if the Case Goes to Court?

If the case goes to court, there will be a preliminary hearing, followed by a trial, a dispositional hearing, review hearing, and then a permanency hearing. Even if only one parent was accused of child abuse or neglect, the DCPP will likely name both parents in the case. Each parent may have to hire their own lawyer. The DCPP will be represented by a Deputy Attorney General, and the court will appoint the child a Law Guardian.

Parents and caregivers have the right to challenge findings in some cases. The first step is to notify the DCPP investigator and their supervisor. When this does not solve the problem, the Casework Supervisor, Local Office Manager, and Area Director can be contacted. Some decisions can be appealed by contacting the Department of Children and Families’ (DCF) Office of Advocacy, but this must be completed within 20 days after receiving the notice.

If DCPP does file a case and it goes to court, they can make two kinds of findings. A title 9 case IS when a child has been abused or neglected. In this instance, the abuser is listed on a database, which can be searched by certain employers, such as child care centers and nursing homes; being in the database can also make people ineligible for fostering or adopting children. A Title 30 case is when the DCPP has to take further steps to protect the child’s health and safety. Although a Title 9 finding establishes the abuse or neglect, a Title 30 may mean that the family or child is in need of services. Additionally, Title 30 and Title 9 rely on different forms of evidence.

How can a Lawyer Help with My Case?

Unless there are extenuating circumstances, New Jersey law requires the DCPP to develop a Safety Protection Plan that will keep the family together. These plans can be successful, but this does not always happen. If one is facing a DCPP hearing and is trying to get custody, a knowledgeable lawyer can explain the options and will fight to protect one’s rights.

Cherry Hill DCPP Lawyers at the Law Offices of Theodore J. Baker Work Diligently to Protect the Rights of Accused Parents

If you are facing child abuse or neglect allegations, contact one of our Cherry Hill DCPP lawyers at the Law Offices of Theodore J. Baker. For an initial consultation, complete our online form or call us at 856-795-9400. Located in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout South Jersey, including Haddonfield, Marlton, Medford, Moorestown, Mount Laurel, and Voorhees.

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