The Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCPP) in the Department of Children and Families is the New Jersey agency responsible for investigating alleged crimes against children. It operates an around-the-clock hotline for receiving reports of alleged child abuse or neglect.
Mandatory Reporting of Suspected Abuse is the Law
New Jersey’s approach to abuse of children involves using an abundance of caution. There is a broad obligation on anyone coming into contact with children, regardless of their role, to report suspected child abuse. Typically, reports are made by teachers, doctors, nurses, dentists, clergy, or members of an extended family. The broad reporting obligation can serve as a double-edged sword. Potential misuse of the system is possible. Over-reporting or claiming suspected abuse as a rouse to harass parents has happened.
Abuse or suspected abuse goes beyond intentionally causing physical injury. It can include sexual abuse. It can also be intentional acts of emotional or social isolation or deprivation, including improperly placing the child in an institution. Neglect of a child by providing inadequate care, necessities, or supervision is also considered child abuse.
Conduct of Initial Investigation
The DCPP must investigate allegations within 24 hours of receiving a report and will show up unannounced to begin an investigation. If an investigator has arrived at your door, it is important to know your rights. Investigators are in a position to make big decisions regarding custody and care of your child.
The investigator will advise that there has been an allegation of abuse and that they are investigating it. They will give you their contact information and the name of their supervisor. The investigators can tell you general information about what was reported. You are not permitted to know the source of a report of suspected abuse.
You are not required to agree to an interview. If you refuse to speak to an investigator, DCPP may seek an order to investigate and schedule a court hearing to that end. If this happens, you can explain your position to the judge. If the judge finds there is still reason to continue an investigation, then an “order to investigate” will be issued and at that time you will be required to cooperate with investigators.
An investigator must get your permission before examining your child’s medical records or speaking to their doctors. They will ask you to sign a medical release. If you do not want to agree to unfettered release of medical information, then you may ask for the release to be subject to limitations. You might want to release records for a limited period of time or for certain types of treatment or for it to apply only to a primary care doctor. If you feel uncomfortable about any release you have signed, you may revoke it at any time.
If an investigator suspects a crime has been committed against a child, they can contact the police who will then perform a criminal investigation. If they feel your child is in imminent danger, they can remove your child from the home without a court order. Within two days after removal you will get a notice to appear in court. You are strongly advised to bring an experienced DCPP attorney to that hearing.
Cherry Hill DCPP/DYFS Lawyer, Ted Baker, Advises Clients on Their Rights During an Investigation
If you are involved in a DCPP case investigation, it is important to be represented by an experienced South Jersey DCPP/DYFS lawyer. Contact the Law Offices of Theodore J. Baker by calling 856-795-9400 or complete an online contact form to schedule an appointment to discuss your case and legal options. We represent clients throughout South Jersey from our offices in Cherry Hill.