The Four Conclusions in a DCPP Investigation

April 10, 2023
South Jersey DCPP Lawyers at the Law Offices of Theodore J. Baker Assist Clients Accused of Child Abuse and Neglect.
South Jersey DCPP Lawyers at the Law Offices of Theodore J. Baker Assist Clients Accused of Child Abuse and Neglect.

When the New Jersey Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCPP) receives a report of abuse or neglect, a caseworker will investigate the report within 24 hours and has up to 60 days to make a determination, though the agency can request additional time, if necessary. Once the investigation is complete, the case will be classified in one of four possible conclusions.


Cases in which investigators find evidence of abuse or neglect, they must investigate other “absolutely substantiating circumstances” before reaching a substantiated conclusion:

  • Death or near death of a child.
  • Repeated instances of physical abuse.
  • Depriving a child of necessary care.
  • Hospitalization for injuries and neglect-related conditions.
  • Sexual abuse and inappropriate sexual activity exposure.

The case is determined as substantiated if any of these circumstances exist. In cases with substantiated conclusions, the children are removed from the home and the offender’s name and information permanently recorded in the Child Abuse Record Information (CARI). Though CARI is not publicly available, inclusion on the registry may prevent employment with adoption agencies, child care centers, and foster care facilities who all have access to the registry. Being on the registry also prohibits fostering or adopting a child.


When evidence confirms abuse or neglect but does not meet the substantiating circumstances, DCPP classifies the case as “established.” Offenders with established conclusions are not put on the registry, though the case file will remain active permanently and cannot be expunged.

Should additional allegations be filed against offenders again, DCPP may conclude the abuse is substantiated when combined with previous rulings. As with substantiated, this conclusion can also affect employment around children, and offenders are prohibited from fostering or adopting unless otherwise appealed.

Given the similarities between substantiated and established classifications, investigators look for mitigating or aggravating factors to make their final conclusions:

  • Aggravated: Aggravating factors are circumstances that cause the abuse or neglect to be more serious, such as a pattern of abuse and neglect or lasting emotional or physical impacts to the child.
  • Mitigating: Circumstances that would cause the abuse or neglect to be less serious, such as the alleged offender’s first DCPP complaint or a history of tending the child’s needs as strengths to be mitigating factors.

If determined, DCPP will weigh these positive and negative factors to form a conclusion. If there are more aggravating factors, the conclusion will be substantiated. If there are more mitigating factors, the conclusion will be established.

Not Established

When evidence does not show abuse or neglect is occurring but does indicate the child may still be exposed to harm or risk, DCPP classifies the case as “not established.” Names are not put on the registry, however, the case file will remain active with DCPP and cannot be expunged.


If DCPP determines the allegations are false and no abuse or neglect is evident, the case is classified as “unfounded.” Alleged offenders will not be put on the registry, and the case will be expunged after three years unless there is another report and investigation of abuse during that time, or the court orders the agency to keep the records.

Each classification of child abuse or neglect conclusions are not criminal in nature, and do not result in convictions or a criminal record for offenders. The agency sends written notice of decisions approximately 60 days following the investigation.

Can I Appeal the DCPP Conclusion?

Appeals can be made for substantiated and established conclusions with the Office of Administrative Law within 20 days of receiving DCPP’s decision, provided that you are not currently a defendant in a child abuse or neglect court case.

There are several steps involved with filing an appeal, and you should speak directly with DCPP or the District Attorney General assigned to your case. Typical appeals involve withholding names and information from the registry and reclassifying the conclusion to a lesser finding.

South Jersey DCPP Lawyers at the Law Offices of Theodore J. Baker Assist Clients Accused of Child Abuse and Neglect

If you are the subject of a child abuse or neglect investigation, you need legal representation immediately to protect your rights. Speak with one of our South Jersey DCPP lawyers at the Law Offices of Theodore J. Baker. Call us at 856-210-9776 or contact us online to schedule an initial consultation. Located in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, we serve clients in South Jersey, including Haddonfield, Marlton, Medford, Moorestown, Mount Laurel, and Voorhees.

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