Many families are unaware New Jersey child welfare workers can remove children from a home without a court order when there is evidence of an “imminent risk of harm” to a child. This type of emergency removal of a child from the home can be a very stressful experience for families and children. Within 48 hours after an emergency removal, a Dodd hearing must be conducted to obtain court approval for the removal. For families in the midst of having their child removed, the Dodd hearing can be a crucial turning point in the process.
Purpose of the Dodd Hearing
At the Dodd hearing, a judge decides whether there was a legitimate basis for removing the child and if so, where the child should be placed. Reunification with a child cannot generally take place until the Dodd hearing is completed. The Family Court must determine the child was in imminent risk of harm to authorize the emergency removal. Judges will weigh the recommendation made by the New Jersey DCP&P (Department of Child Protection and Permanency) with other factors including:
- Previous history of serious, life-threatening, chronic, or suspicious injuries
- Serious past injury to a child’s sibling caused by an immediate household member
- Death of another child in the home caused by an immediate household member
- Presence of an “out of control” parent impacting the child’s condition
- Evidence of extreme emotional abuse or neglect (including extreme ambivalence, negativism, or aggression)
- Existence of a serious disruption in family life resulting in a parent’s inability to care for the child
- Failed prior attempts by DCP&P to help correct a problematic situation
- Evidence of ongoing physical neglect or physical/sexual abuse
- Leaving a vulnerable child (include young children and children with disabilities) alone
If the family court concludes the removal of the child was necessary, the second part of the hearing will address where the child should stay.
Returning the Child to the Home
Most parents wish to have their children returned as soon as possible to their home. If the judge concludes the emergency removal of the child was not necessary, the child may be returned to their family under certain conditions. Most judges will require that a safety plan is developed prior to any reunification. This plan can address what services the family must pursue to create a safe living environment. Services can encompass psychological and substance abuse evaluations to domestic violence counseling and mandatory drug treatment. In some circumstances, a child may be placed not with their parent but with another relative, in a residential facility, or with a temporary foster family.
Preparing for a Dodd Hearing
Most families have a short amount of time to prepare for a Dodd hearing. Given the emergency circumstances surrounding the removal of the child, notice to families is limited. Obtaining the assistance of an experienced Cherry Hill DCPP/DYFS lawyer familiar with the requirements and evidentiary standards used in child removal proceedings should be the first step taken by families during this difficult time.
Cherry Hill DCPP/DYFS Lawyers at the Law Offices of Theodore J. Baker Assist Families Throughout South Jersey
If you or a loved one is facing a Dodd hearing, experienced Cherry Hill DCPP/DYFS lawyer, Ted J. Baker, is here to help. With offices conveniently located in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, the Law Offices of Theodore J. Baker proudly serves individuals and families throughout South Jersey. To set up an initial confidential consultation today, call us at 856-795-9400 or submit an online inquiry form.