When the New Jersey Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCPP), formerly known as the Division of Youth and Family Services, receives a notification that a child may be in danger, they must initiate an investigation within 24 hours. Acting quickly may help a child avoid further harm. In some cases, however, this may mean that they are not taking the proper time to understand a situation. It is important for parents to understand the results of their DCPP investigation and their rights following an investigation.
Four Possible Outcomes
Investigations must reach their conclusion within 60 days, unless the specific circumstances require more time. Parents will receive a letter outlining the outcome, which will be categorized in one of four ways: substantiated, established, not established, or unfounded. A substantiated investigation refers to cases where there is clear evidence of abuse or neglect. This is the most severe designation and may result in the child’s removal from the home. The finding will be permanently recorded in the Child Abuse Registry, which can impact the parents’ employment prospects and any future adoption or fostering plans.
An established case is different than a substantiated case in that, while some evidence of abuse or neglect exists, the mitigating factors outweigh the aggravating factors. Mitigating factors can include extraordinary circumstances that resulted in an abusive action, remedial actions taken since, or other evidence that abuse is not the norm. There must be enough evidence to show that the child can safely stay in the home. An established finding is not listed on the Child Abuse Registry, but a permanent record is made with the DCPP, which can impact any subsequent investigations that occur.
A case will be designated as not established if there is no concrete evidence of abuse or neglect, but there is reason to suspect that the child is at risk. This also goes on a permanent record but is not included on the Child Abuse Registry. If the DCPP finds that the child has not been abused or put at risk of harm, they will classify the case as unfounded. Records of an unfounded finding can usually be expunged after three years, unless there are extenuating circumstances, such as another investigation.
Filing an Appeal
Depending on the outcome of the case, parents may wish to file an appeal. The process is straightforward for substantiated and established cases: the parents must file an appeal with the Office of Administrative Law within 20 days of receiving their outcome. If the investigation revealed certain absolute substantiating factors, such as repeated physical abuse, hospitalization, or exposure to inappropriate sexual activity, a substantiated finding cannot be overturned; other aggravating factors may leave room for discussion, especially if there are mitigating factors present. If the child has been removed from the home, parents must act quickly to preserve their parental rights.
Cherry Hill DCPP/DYFS Lawyers at the Law Offices of Theodore J. Baker Advocate for Families
The results of a DCPP investigation can have a serious and lasting impact on a family, especially if children are removed from the home. The Cherry Hill DCPP/DYFS lawyers at the Law Offices of Theodore J. Baker have the knowledge and experience to guide families through a DCPP investigation. We understand that every family is different, and we will take the time to understand your circumstances. With offices conveniently located in Cherry Hill, we help families throughout South Jersey. Call us today at 856-210-9776 or contact us online to discuss your case.