When investigators from the Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCPP) contact a parent on a tip of suspected child abuse or neglect, feelings of fear, confusion, and emotions can run high. Knowing what rights the parent has in a DCPP investigation can ensure the outcome is fair and that the parents’ legal rights are protected.
What are Parents’ Legal Rights?
Answering the door to find DCPP investigators is usually a shock to the parent or caregiver, especially if it is their first experience. Many parents believe they have no choice but to let the investigators into their home, and to answer any questions they may have. Parents have no legal obligation to do this.
Parents that are aware of their legal rights will have the opportunity to contact an experienced DCPP lawyer that can help them navigate the DCPP system during the investigation. Parental rights include:
- Refusal to enter the home
- Refusal to speak or comply with DCPP investigators
- Right to refuse drug tests
- Refusal to participate in evaluations
- Refusal to sign documents
- Right to consult or have a DCPP lawyer present
While it is generally a good idea to have a cooperative spirit when approached by DCPP officials, it is not necessary to comply with their demands until an experienced DCPP lawyer is present or able to provide counsel.
What Can I Expect During a DCPP Investigation?
DCPP officials are legally required to investigate all reliable reports of suspected child abuse or neglect within 24 hours. DCPP officials usually show up at a home unannounced so they can see the conditions present in the home. During an investigation, DCPP officials have the following rights:
- Contact the Superior Court to petition for an order to investigate if a parent has refused to cooperate
- Report confirmation that child abuse or neglect is present to local law enforcement officials
- Call on local law enforcement officials to come to the scene of an investigation when violence is present
- Contact and confer with DCPP officials during the interview process
- Interview children in private
- Speak to children at school without parental approval
- Speak to a child’s teacher and pediatrician without parental consent
- Ask a parent to sign release papers that will give them access to all medical and personal information
- Right to remove a child from the home immediately if they feel the child is in imminent danger
- Develop a case or safety plan that outlines stipulations for parents to follow to ensure the safety or return of their child
- Report the names of parents or caregivers found to have substantiated evidence of child abuse or neglect to the New Jersey state Child Abuse Registry, which limits the parents’ rights to employment, fostering, and adoption
Parents commonly feel vulnerable when a DCPP investigation begins, but knowledge of parental rights during an investigation can ensure the best possible outcome.
New Jersey DCPP Lawyers at the Law Offices of Theodore J. Baker Advocate for Parental Rights in DCPP Investigations
If you are being investigated by the DCPP, the New Jersey DCPP lawyers at the Law Offices of Theodore J. Baker can ensure your parental rights are protected. Call us at 856-795-9400 or contact us online to schedule an initial consultation today. Located in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout Haddonfield, Marlton, Medford, Moorestown, Mount Laurel, and Voorhees.