For many families under investigation by the New Jersey Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCPP), a home inspection can be the source of confusion and stress during an already difficult time. Understanding what to expect during a DCPP home visit can make the process go smoother and give families important information they may need to protect their rights.
Claims of sexual or physical abuse of a child are high priority matters. Within 24 hours after a child abuse or neglect complaint is received by DCPP, an investigation into the claim must be started. DCPP investigations are finished within 60 days. In addition to interviews of all involved parties and witnesses, DCPP investigators must make a home inspection to determine if the child in question is living in a safe environment. If an inspection reveals that the welfare of the child is at risk, the child will be removed from the home and placed in protective foster care.
Protecting the Welfare of the Child
Investigators may make unannounced or multiple visits to the home, looking for hazardous conditions and necessities, such as working heat and electricity, clean running water, adequate food and clean clothes, and an appropriate sleeping space. Investigators also will examine the home to ensure that the caretaker is mentally and physically able to care for the child, particularly if there is suspicion of substance abuse problems. DCPP will also look for any signs of physical injuries and medical or educational neglect.
Cooperating with the DCPP
Individuals are under no legal duty to cooperate with the DCPP Investigator and can refuse to open their home up to an inspection. If a parent refuses to cooperate, the agency can proceed to petition the Court to compel a home inspection. If the agency can persuade the Court that without further information as to the home’s condition that the safety of the child remains at risk, the Court can remove the child without a home inspection. For this reason, denying access to the home can have serious legal consequences. Families have the right to have legal counsel present at any and all home inspections. Parents are strongly encouraged to consult with experienced legal counsel before deciding whether to allow access to their home for purposes of a DCPP inspection.
Protecting the Rights of Family Members
Unauthorized or improperly conducted home investigations and the damage caused by an abuse of DCPP powers can lead to significant trauma resulting in emotional distress for children and their parents. When the DCPP exceeds the scope of their authority, parents may be able file suit based on a violation of the parental rights. Obtaining an experienced DCPP lawyer to help you navigate the investigatory process should be the first step for families facing a home inspection.
Cherry Hill DCPP/DFYS Lawyers at the Law Offices of Theodore J. Baker Assist Families Throughout South Jersey
If you or a loved one is facing a DCPP home inspection, the experienced Cherry Hill DCPP/DFYS lawyers at the Law Offices of Theodore J. Baker can help. With offices conveniently located in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, we represent individuals and families throughout South Jersey. To set up an initial consultation today, call us at 856-795-9400 or submit an online inquiry form.