Charges of Abuse
Each state has its own agency that is responsible for investigating allegations of child abuse and neglect. In New Jersey, that agency is the Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCPP), formerly the Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS). If you are the subject of a DCPP investigation, you need an experienced attorney on your side. Skilled South Jersey DCPP/DYFS lawyer Ted Baker has helped many families get through such legal ordeals and can help you achieve the best possible resolution for your case.
Mandatory reporting laws vary. Some states have institutional reporting laws that require employees to report suspected abuse to the head of the institution for which they work. In other states, only people in certain professions are required to report suspected child abuse. These professions typically include:
- Camp counselors
- Clergy members
- Day care workers
- District Attorneys
- Health care workers
- Juvenile probation officers
- Law enforcement personnel
- School officials
- Social workers
In New Jersey, anyone who has reasonable cause to believe a child has been abused, regardless of their profession, must report it to the State Central Registry (SCR). Those who make reports in good faith are immune from any resulting criminal or civil liability. However, anyone who knowingly fails to report suspected abuse may be prosecuted.
How Reports of Child Abuse Are Investigated
Once a report has been made, the DCPP will launch an investigation within 24 hours. Part of this investigation involves interviewing the parents, conducting home visits, and ordering psychological or substance abuse evaluations.
If the agency determines that a child is in immediate danger, it may intervene to have that child removed from the home until a hearing can be held the following day. If it instead finds that the child is not in immediate danger, it may continue its investigation for up to 60 days, after which it must request permission for 30-day extensions.
When its investigation is completed, the DCPP will send a letter to the parents informing them of the outcome in their case. The allegations may be:
- Substantiated – A substantiated finding means that the DCPP found evidence of abuse or neglect based on consideration of aggravating and mitigating factors.
- Established – If the DCPP finds evidence to support the allegations of abuse, but there are mitigating factors (such as no prior history with the DCPP), it may make an established finding.
- Not established – A not established finding means that the allegations are not established according to the statute, but there is still evidence that the child was harmed or at risk of harm.
- Unfounded – If the DCPP determines that the child is not abused, neglected, harmed, or being placed at risk of harm, it may find that the allegations are unfounded.
New Jersey Child Abuse Registry
In cases where the findings are substantiated, the investigation records will be filed in the central registry, a centralized database of child abuse and neglect investigation records. The registry provides information to assist social services agencies in the handling of child abuse cases. Certain people, such as child care center employees and adoption agency employees, may also be subject to Child Abuse Record Information (CARI) checks. CARI checks are background checks for child abuse or neglect that are conducted by the CARI Unit on behalf of the New Jersey Department of Children and Families (DCF).
Those who wish to contest a substantiated finding may file an appeal within 20 days of receipt of the DCPP letter. The subject of the DCPP investigation may then be granted a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), who will issue an Initial Decision. There may be additional opportunities to contest the ALJ’s decision. For assistance in filing an appeal, contact a knowledgeable DCPP attorney who can explain your legal options.
South Jersey DCPP/DYFS Lawyer, Ted Baker, Defends Clients Against Charges of Abuse
If you are the subject of a DCPP investigation or you are facing child abuse/neglect charges, contact a South Jersey DCPP/DYFS lawyer at the Law Offices of Theodore J. Baker. We can help ensure that your rights are protected and help you to successfully navigate the complexities of the law. Our compassionate legal team represents clients throughout South Jersey from our offices conveniently located in Cherry Hill. To schedule an appointment, complete our online contact form or call us at 856-210-9776 today.