The impulse to protect a child from harm is a crucial trait of our basic human nature. It is difficult for most people to witness a child in danger and do nothing. At the same time, otherwise caring adults can become reluctant to get involved in someone else’s family business or to read too much into a situation that they may not fully understand.
It is important, however, to bring your concerns to the attention of someone who can look into the matter and make a knowledgeable determination as to whether or not your fears are warranted. Trained professionals at New Jersey’s Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCPP) have the training and experience to determine if the child is in danger and to implement a plan of action that ensures the child’s safety.
Do I have to act on my suspicions?
If you believe you have witnessed child abuse or neglect, you have an obligation to report on it. Not doing so may result in your being charged as a disorderly person, which may lead to a fine of up to $1000, imprisonment for up to six months, or both.
How do I make a report?
If the child is in immediate danger, call 911. Otherwise, report your concerns to State Central Registry’s child abuse hotline at 1-877 NJ ABUSE (1-877-652-2873). The hotline is available 24 hours a day, every day.
What information do they require?
The hotline screeners will ask all the relevant questions to help them follow up on your report. They will ask for identifying information on the child, their parents, and the alleged perpetrator. They will ask for the child’s address and the relationships of all those involved. They will also require whatever details you can provide about the alleged abuse or neglect including when and where it occurred, how often, and when you learned of it. They may ask if you are aware of any other instances or injuries that have raised red flags in the past. Also, they will want to know if the alleged perpetrator currently has access to the child.
Can I report anonymously?
You may remain anonymous. You do not have to provide any proof to support your allegation. It may come as a relief to know that good-faith reports are protected from civil and criminal liability. The same protection applies if you were to testify during proceedings as to what you witnessed.
What happens next?
Within 24 hours of your report, the DCPP will investigate. The trajectory of the case will depend on what the caseworker finds and whatever follow-ups might be necessary. Your involvement may end after the initial report, or (assuming you did not claim anonymity) you may be called upon for an interview or perhaps to testify more formally.
South Jersey DCPP/DYFS Lawyers at the Law Offices of Theodore J. Baker Guide Clients Through Complicated Child Abuse Proceedings
Child abuse proceedings can be overwhelming for all involved. Help from the experienced South Jersey DCPP / DYFS lawyers at the Law Offices of Theodore J. Baker can be an asset to anyone trying to navigate the maze of rules and actions required to see your case through to its conclusion. We represent parents who have been accused of child abuse or neglect, temporary guardians or relatives attempting to obtain custody in such a case, and parents attempting to regain custody according to the terms ordered by a judge. Call our Cherry Hill, New Jersey office at 856-795-9400 or contact us online today. We provide counsel to clients throughout South Jersey, including the areas of Haddonfield, Marlton, Medford, Moorestown, Mount Laurel, and Voorhees.