New Jersey’s Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCPP) is the agency responsible for ensuring children’s safety. It partners with community-based agencies to provide services, such as counseling, parenting skills classes, substance abuse treatment, foster care, and residential placement.
DCPP investigates accusations of child neglect and abuse in order to determine the best course of action, which involves meeting with the parents and children in the home. However, DCPP investigators often conduct their investigations based on confidential, unsubstantiated tips, and do not provide advance notice of their visits. What about rights of the parents? Does home intrusion from DCPP violate civil rights?
Can DCPP Come to Your Home Unannounced?
In New Jersey, anyone who has reasonable cause to believe a child has been subjected to abuse is required to report the suspected abuse to the State Central Registry. Those making a report may do so anonymously and are not required to have proof. Reports that indicate a child may be at risk are handled by a DCPP investigator within 24 hours.
The DCPP’s stated mission is to ensure the safety, permanency, and well-being of children and to support families. According to them, it conducts its investigations on behalf of children, not against parents or family. It has no authority to make arrests or file criminal charges, but rather collects information pertaining to the report to decide what is best for the children as well as the family.
Lawful Investigation or Civil Rights Violation?
Some cases involving alleged unlawful and unconstitutional actions by the DCPP have surfaced recently. In one case, parents claim that the DCPP conducted an aggressive investigation based on an unfounded confidential tip, and that in doing so, the DCPP overstepped its authority and violated their constitutional rights. It remains to be seen whether the division will be held accountable for its alleged violation of the parents’ civil rights.
Do You Have to Cooperate With DCPP Investigators?
Those who are subjected to a DCPP investigation may wonder whether they must cooperate with an investigator. Although there is no court order demanding compliance, nor does the agency have the power to make an arrest, it is typically in the parents’ best interest to cooperate with the investigation to prevent it from going to court.
A DCPP investigation will only turn into a court case if investigators have evidence to suggest that the allegations of abuse are true. For some, it may be best to allow the DCPP to complete its investigation, which may involve interviews, urine screenings, and the reviewing of medical records.
In other cases, it may be more advantageous for parents to not cooperate to prevent the agency from collecting further evidence against them. While it is generally in the parents’ best interest to keep their case out of court, which can be costly, a qualified DCPP attorney should be able to advise parents on the best course of legal action based on their situation.
New Jersey DYFS Attorneys at the Law Offices of Theodore J. Baker Protect Parents’ Legal Rights
If you have any questions regarding DCPP investigations, contact one of our New Jersey DYFS attorneys at the Law Offices of Theodore J. Baker today. Our experienced attorneys can help you navigate the DCPP procedure while ensuring that your civil rights are protected. Contact us online or call us at 856-795-9400 for a private consultation. Located in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, we represent clients throughout South Jersey, including Haddonfield, Marlton, Medford, Moorestown, Mount Laurel, and Voorhees.