The New Jersey Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCPP) investigates allegations of child abuse and neglect. Since the agency has an anonymous hotline, complaints can come through at any time. Parents may be surprised when a social worker from the agency appears at their door, but these parents need to know what to do next. The tips listed below will help parents understand why and how they should retain an attorney to navigate this difficult situation. While parents may feel that they are stuck in a bad situation, they need to know how to work with a lawyer who can help.
What Happens When DCPP Visits the Home?
When parents are confronted by a social worker at their door, they often do not know how to respond. Regardless of the validity of the accusations, the social worker will ask to enter the home and investigate. At this point, parents can refuse entry and contact an attorney.
DCPP workers and uniformed law enforcement officers must establish probable cause to enter the home. While DCPP workers might say that they need to inspect the home, they need to provide proof of a court order. If they have a court order, call a lawyer immediately. If not, they should be told to obtain a court order while the parents retain an attorney.
Social workers might ask questions in a benign and non-threatening manner, but anything they hear can be used against the parents or the family. Moreover, law enforcement officers might record anything that is said. Parents must remain silent until they can speak to an attorney who will advocate on their behalf.
Can Both Parents Retain the Same Attorney?
While both parents may believe that they should retain the same attorney, they are not always allowed to do so. If one parent is guilty of alleged abuse or neglect while the other is not, that could create a conflict of interest for the lawyer. The attorney for one parent can move forward with a vigorous defense while the other parent and their lawyer must prepare for a criminal filing.
There are circumstances in which parents may be allowed to retain the same attorney. One should speak to a lawyer during a consultation to determine if each parent needs their own attorney.
What if Criminal Charges are Filed?
When DCPP allegations are presented, they might include separate criminal charges. When criminal charges are filed, a parent will need an attorney for a strong defense. In some cases, a parent does not want to retain a lawyer or feels that no one else could understand their circumstances. A judge is not likely to allow parents to represent themselves. Someone without a legal background could cause massive delays in the case, and the state cannot afford to reduce response times.
Each parent should retain a lawyer so that they can defend themselves right away. Parents should not allow themselves to be questioned without an attorney present, and they should not sign anything without their lawyer there.
Am I Required to Retain a Lawyer for a DCPP Case?
If the accused hires a separate lawyer for their criminal case, that attorney may not be allowed to view confidential DCPP records. Speak to an attorney to determine who should represent the parents if a criminal charge is filed. The court may have something to say about this, and the lawyer representing the parents during a civil case might refer the family to a criminal attorney.
What if the Allegations are False?
Parents must remember that the DCPP does not know who called in the complaint, no matter how unfounded it may be. The parents and even older children might feel compelled to argue with the social worker or law enforcement officers who have arrived at the house. These people do not understand what is going on past the written complaint they have received.
If the social workers or law enforcement officers do not have a court order, say nothing. If they do, remain silent until it is possible to speak to an attorney. The lawyer can uncover information showing that the allegations are false. Arguing with social workers or law enforcement officers will only serve to escalate an already volatile and tense situation.
What Can DCPP Do to My Family?
When the DCPP has evidence proving claims of abuse, neglect, or sexual misconduct, the agency can cite the parents, remove the children, and recommend the parents be arrested for abuse and neglect.
Parents should have their children at home where they can be raised in a consistent and loving environment, and that is why it is important to hire a lawyer. If allegations of neglect or abuse are relatively minor, the social worker may create a remediation plan for the family. Even though the parents have avoided the removal of the children or criminal charges, they need a lawyer to help them review the remediation contract.
If the children are removed from the home, the parents need a lawyer who can help them bring their children back to the house. While the children are placed in the foster system, the parents do not have the legal expertise to bring their children back.
Additionally, parents who are referred for criminal charges should retain one lawyer each. These attorneys can help the parents make bail when necessary, collect evidence regarding these charges, and argue the case in court.
Cherry Hill DCPP Lawyers at the Law Offices of Theodore J. Baker Service Families Facing False DCPP Allegations
Speak to our Cherry Hill DCPP lawyers at the Law Offices of Theodore J. Baker when you are facing or recovering from DCPP allegations. We understand how false allegations can separate a family, and we want to protect your rights. Call us at 856-795-9400 or contact us online for an initial consultation. Located in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout South Jersey, including Haddonfield, Marlton, Medford, Moorestown, Mount Laurel, and Voorhees.