The New Jersey Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCPP) has the authority to enter a home if the case worker suspects child abuse or neglect. The state and the DCPP takes any allegation of child abuse seriously. Typically, when a person believes a child’s safety is in danger, they will involve the police.
When the DCPP opens an investigation into a child abuse or neglect accusation, the primary motivation is to ensure that the child is out of harm’s way. This might require the removal of the child from the house. Ultimately, the DCPP’s goal is to reunite families after the parents have received the treatment they need. However, there are many points throughout the process that can be stressful and highly emotional, especially when it comes to separating children from their parents.
What will Prompt a DCPP Investigation?
The DCPP will open an investigation into a parent when the agency receives a report about neglect taking place inside a home. These are anonymous tips, meaning that the accused person is not entitled to know who made an accusation against them. The DCPP is obligated to take all accusations seriously and to follow up on them immediately. This could mean a case worker will visit the home of the child who was the subject of the accusation.
When a case worker visits a home, there are several motivations for the visit, including:
- To interview the parents.
- To interview the child.
- To inspect the home for signs of drug or alcohol abuse.
- To inspect the child’s room for safety concerns.
While the case worker is at the home, they might question the parents, and it is important for parents to know that the case worker will document all the person’s answers. These answers could be used if the DCPP worker is considering referring the case to the police as a criminal matter.
Will the DCPP Bring the Police to the Investigation?
A DCPP case is a civil matter, meaning initially it is just pertaining to the parental rights of the accused. The punishment could involve attending therapy or medication or even entering a treatment facility. Most of the cases do not result in jail time for the accused.
However, if the matter becomes a criminal investigation, then the accused could be facing jail time. Police involvement into a DCPP case will usually get initiated by the case worker assigned to a case based on the evidence they have collected. Circumstances could also dictate the need for the police. The police may get involved because the case worker requires police assistance, there are claims of abuse or neglect, and the police are alerted directly about an incident.
Once the police are involved, the matter can escalate quickly. Parents should still remember that they are under tremendous scrutiny and should maintain their temper when dealing with both the police and the DCPP. Even before the involvement of the police, parents should consider hiring an experienced lawyer.
When will a Case Worker Bring a Police Officer to My Home?
If a case worker suspects that a child might be in a life-threatening situation, they will involve the police to help remove the child from the home for their own safety.
A police officer’s presence does not mean that a crime has been committed. The relationship between the parents and the case worker could be so toxic that the worker requests the police as a matter of their own safety. Even if the police are involved, it does not mean they are conducting the investigation. The DCPP is still in charge of the civil matter unless there is an incident found that rises to the level of garnering criminal charges.
What Happens if There is Evidence of Abuse?
When a case worker finishes their investigation and determines that there is enough evidence to suspect abuse or neglect, they will refer the matter to the police so that they can launch the criminal proceedings on the case. They have 10 days to inform the authorities that the accusations are more than likely true.
New Jersey law defines child abuse and neglect as the following:
- Causing serious physical or emotional harm to a child or allowing another person to cause such harm.
- Creating a risk of physical harm to a child or allowing another person to create such risk.
- Sexually abusing a child or allowing another person to sexually abuse a child.
- Harming a child or creating a risk of harm to a child by failing to provide proper care.
- Using excessive physical punishment on a child.
- Abandoning a child.
The case worker must submit a detailed report that the police will use to open their investigation. The police and prosecutors will use the information and evidence that the case worker collected to build their case against the parents.
Can the Police Get Involved without the DCPP?
There are instances where the police get involved in a child abuse or neglect case without the participation of the DCPP. Police could be called to a home due to an emergency or other criminal activity. During the incident, they may have to arrest the parents leaving a child alone. They will report the incident to the DCPP so that they can take custody of the child and open an investigation of their own.
What Happens to the Civil Case After the Police Get Involved?
Even though the police are involved in a case and a criminal investigation may have also been opened, it will have no impact on the pending civil case. Both cases will move forward independently of each other, although having a pending criminal charge will not bode well for a person’s chances on the civil side.
For the most part, DCPP cases do not start with any intention of becoming a criminal matter. Parents must be cautious when they are interacting with the DCPP. Parents should not do anything that could prompt a negative response or take any action that could lead to the involvement of the police. After a child abuse accusation, parents should contact a lawyer for assistance.
Haddonfield DCPP Lawyers at the Law Offices of Theodore J. Baker Help Parents Accused of Child Abuse and Neglect
Getting a knock on the door by a DCPP case worker can be a stressful experience. You do not want to face investigations by a state worker without the presence of a lawyer. Speak to a Haddonfield DCPP lawyer at the Law Offices of Theodore J. Baker for help with your case. Call us at 856-210-9776 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.