The New Jersey Department of Child Protection and Permanency (DCPP) is the agency responsible for responding to allegations of child abuse and neglect. They have a legal obligation to investigate every report of child welfare concern that comes to them. If you find yourself the subject of a DCPP investigation it is important to know your parental rights so that you can protect yourself and your family.
If the DCPP files a complaint alleging child welfare concerns, abuse, neglect, or requests a termination of parental rights, you have the fundamental right to due process, including notice and the opportunity to be heard. If your child is taken into DCPP custody you have the right to be informed of their health and development and to visit them as long as visitation does not pose a risk to the child. You also have the right to legal representation in any kind of DCPP court case and at any point during the process. A DCPP investigation is both frightening and confusing, so it is best to hire an experienced DCPP attorney who can guide and advise you through the process.
Parental Rights are Individual in Nature
While the DCPP may evaluate one parent as unfit, that does not permit them to terminate the other parent’s rights. The State must balance their obligation to protect children with the rights of parents. DCPP acts by determining what is in the best interest of the child. When deciding to remove a child from their home it must consider whether they are also interfering with the parents’ fundamental right to a relationship and if unwarranted separation from the parents will be emotionally traumatizing for the child. Before the DCPP takes custody of a child, they are obligated to make a reasonable effort to preserve the family unit.
Allegations and Outcomes
You do not have the right to know who filed the report against you, as all reports of child abuse and neglect remain anonymous. However, the DCPP must tell you what the allegations are. If agents appear at your home, you have the right to know their names, their supervisor’s name, and all of their phone numbers. Parents have the right to know the findings of the investigation. At the conclusion of the investigation, you should receive a letter in the mail with an outline of the DCPP’s major findings.
What Should I Do if DCPP Comes to my House?
DCPP is required by law to begin a child protection investigation within 24 hours of receiving a report, which means they could show up at your house without notifying you beforehand. You are not obligated to talk to them, but you should know that speaking with them means you have consented to be interviewed. Should you refuse to talk with them, the DCPP can have the court order an investigation, in which case you will have to appear in court to explain why you feel the investigation is unwarranted. If you are presented with papers to sign, do not sign anything unless you have read and understand what you are signing. You have the right to ask for the documents to be in a language you understand and to review them with an attorney before signing them.
Moorestown DCPP Lawyers at The Law Offices of Theodore J. Baker Advocate for Parents’ Rights
DCPP investigations can be intimidating, but you do not have to bear the stress alone. Contact The Law Offices of Theodore J. Baker to speak to an experienced Moorestown DCCP lawyer who can explain your rights and help you determine the best legal path forward. Call 856-210-9776 today or contact us online to schedule a confidential consultation about your case. From our offices in Cherry Hill, New Jersey we represent clients throughout South Jersey including those in Haddonfield, Marlton, Medford, Moorestown, Mount Laurel, and Voorhees.