In New Jersey, the Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCPP), formerly known as the Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS), is charged with investigating suspected cases of abuse and neglect. After an investigation, the DCPP will send a letter of notice that classifies the results as either substantiated, established, not established, or unfounded. A substantiated finding can have serious consequences, including the removal of children from the home and entering personal information of the defendant in the Child Abuse Registry.
Even though the registry is not public, being on the list can prevent you from working in childcare facilities and group homes. It may also be difficult to adopt a child or become a foster parent if your name is on the registry. If you receive a notice that a substantiated finding of abuse or neglect has been made against you, you have a right to appeal the finding.
Appealing a Substantiated Finding
After receiving notice of a substantiated finding from the DCPP, you have 20 calendar days to initiate an appeal in writing. An appeal is a multi-step process that may involve a hearing before a judge. The process begins with a letter stating that you are appealing the substantiated finding and requesting an administrative hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) at the Office of Administrative Law (OAL).
Throughout the appeal process, you should contact the DCPP and the District Attorney General (DAG) for your case to explain why you do not want to be named on the Child Abuse Registry. They may see fit to change the finding from substantiated to established or not established.
After receipt of your letter, the DCPP will review your case and possibly rescind the substantiated finding. If they do not, they will move forward with a hearing and notify you in writing about how to prepare. The OAL will also send you a letter about the timeline for your appeal. A second letter from the OAL will notify you of the exact date and location of a pre-hearing conference where you will be introduced to both the ALJ assigned to your case and the DAG who will represent the DCPP.
Before the hearing takes place, there is a period of discovery, which is an opportunity for both parties to exchange information. You can ask for a copy of your DCPP file so that you can review it and prepare. You should also be gathering any important records, letters, or other documents relevant to your appeal. Make copies for the ALJ and the DAG and keep a set for yourself. Prepare a list of witnesses who can testify on your behalf and make sure they can attend your hearing date.
At the hearing, both sides will present arguments, supporting evidence, and witness testimony before the ALJ. The decision about your appeal will be based only on what happens at the hearing, so it is crucial that you provide enough information for the judge to rule in your favor.
Cherry Hill DCPP/DYFS Lawyers at the Law Offices of Theodore J. Baker Help Families Navigate DCPP Appeals
If you need help with a DCPP appeal, consult with an experienced Cherry Hill DCPP/DYFS lawyer at the Law Offices of Theodore J. Baker. With more than 20 years of experience with the New Jersey DCPP, we can help you achieve a fair and successful outcome. Call us at 856-795-9400 or contact us online to schedule an initial consultation today. Located in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout South Jersey.