Whenever the New Jersey Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCPP) gets a report about alleged child neglect or abuse, they are required to investigate. They proceed to interview the child, parents, and anyone that could have information about the circumstances. Parents may also need to be evaluated and/or take drug tests. Even if the report does not seem to warrant these actions, the agency will still investigate.
The Four Tier System
These investigations take around 60 days, but may be extended in some cases. Once this phase is finished, the parents will be notified in writing. In the past, there were two types of decisions; unfounded or substantiated. New Jersey now uses the Four Tier System, which contains the following results:
- Unfounded: This is when the Division does not find proof of child neglect or abuse, that the child was in a harmful situation, or was at risk for harm.
- Not Established: There was evidence provided, but the investigation did not show that the child was at risk for harm or had been hurt.
- Established: Although there was some child neglect or abuse shown, it is a step below a substantiated finding.
- Substantiated: The Division determined that the child was neglected or abused, with the presence of aggravating and/or mitigating factors.
More About the System
The above tiers are based on certain factors. Mitigating circumstances, such as the neglect happening once or remedial actions that were taken, may lessen a defendant’s culpability. On the other hand, aggravating factors can increase that culpability. These can include inflicting serious psychological or physical impact on a child; patterns of neglect and abuse; and repeated instances of substantiated abuse.
The most serious evidence is under the category of Absolutely Substantiating Circumstances, which includes repeated physical abuse; failing to take reasonable action to safeguard a child from physical and sexual abuse; forcing a child into sexual activity; depriving a child from needed care, which caused them harm; or serious injuries that lead to hospitalization, near-death, or death.
What Happens Next
If the DCPP finds a Substantiated case, the child may be removed from the home. The results are permanently recorded in the state’s Child Abuse Registry and although this is not public, names cannot be removed and can have significant impact. Parents with this classification may have trouble finding work in certain industries and may be unable to foster or adopt children in the future. These investigations are not of a criminal nature, though.
If the case falls under the Not Established or Established tiers, the information is recorded, but only used if another complaint of neglect or abuse is received. Parents that disagree with a Substantiated finding have the right to appeal it. This is done by contacting the Office of Administrative Law within 20 days; the contact information will be on the notice that was sent. It is also recommended to contact the District Attorney General that is handling the case, as it may be possible to have the findings changed.
New Jersey DCPP Lawyers at the Law Offices of Theodore J. Baker Help Clients Understand DCPP Investigation Results
Facing a DCPP determination can be overwhelming, and the New Jersey DCPP lawyers at the Law Offices of Theodore J. Baker can help protect your rights. We can help you understand the process and results of a DCPP investigation. Located in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout South Jersey, including Haddonfield, Marlton, Medford, Moorestown, Mount Laurel, and Voorhees. Call us today at 856-210-9776 or contact us online for an initial consultation.