The Division of Child Placement and Permanency (DCPP) is responsible for investigating allegations of abuse and neglect. These investigations should conclude within 60 days and will yield one of four conclusions: substantiated; established; not established; or unfounded.
The DCPP’s finding may determine if a child is to be removed from the home. It may influence if and how the report is shared, which may affect the accused person’s ability to obtain employment or result in other restrictions. The conclusion may also affect the accused person’s right to an appeal.
A conclusion of “substantiated” is the most serious finding of the four. This finding is reached if the investigation discovers “absolutely substantiating circumstances”, such as recurrent physical abuse, a violent event leading to hospitalization, or an exposure to an inappropriate sexual situation.
A “substantiated” decision may be reached without the existence of such absolute circumstances. The investigators will consider aggravating and mitigating factors that may influence the outcome. Aggravating factors, such as a pattern of abuse or other accusations, make the situation appear more serious. While mitigating factors may lessen the impact of the impression given by the circumstances of the allegation. For example, a parent that otherwise has demonstrated great care for their children may be given the benefit of the doubt with regard to their overall parental fitness.
If the conclusion of “substantiated” is reached, the child or children may be removed from the home, possibly requiring services and/or follow up. The offender will be placed on the Child Abuse Registration Information (CARI) list, which is a permanent, non-public registry that may prevent those listed from obtaining certain kinds of work, or adopting or fostering children in the future.
A person accused in a case that is found to be “substantiated” has the right to an appeal by contacting the Office of Administrative Law within 20 days of the dated notification letter.
An “established” classification is found if there has been evidence of abuse or neglect, but any mitigating factors outweigh any aggravating factors. In these cases, the DCCP retains the records of the case—which may affect employment options or eligibility to foster parent—but it does not result in placement on the CARI list. Any instance of future investigations may upgrade the finding in this case, as it would recalculate the balance of aggravating and mitigating factors. An appeal is available in cases deemed “established”.
If the investigation fails to prove abuse or neglect, but the circumstances do indicate an environment with the potential for harm or risk to the child, the case will be categorized as “not established”. In such cases, there will be no referral to the CARI list, but the records of the investigation will remain on file with the DCPP. Any appeal of an “unestablished” finding is not guaranteed and would go through the Appellate Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey.
If the investigation reveals that your child was not harmed or put at risk, the case will be classified as “unfounded”. The Division may expunge the investigation after three years, and no name will be placed with CARI.
Cherry Hill DCPP Lawyer, Ted Baker, Represents Parents and Guardians Facing an Investigation by the DCPP
Families under investigation by New Jersey’s Department of Children and Families’ CPP division need an experienced lawyer knowledgeable in DCPP’s investigation and appeals processes. Attorney Ted Baker has been helping families navigate New Jersey family law for more than 20 years. Contact us online or call our Cherry Hill, New Jersey office at 856-210-9776 to arrange a confidential consultation with an experienced Cherry Hill DCPP lawyer at the Law Offices of Theodore J. Baker. We represent families throughout South Jersey.