As a parent, you are expected to provide your children with a safe place to live, adequate food that meets their nutritional needs, clean and well-fitting clothing, and the love and support they need to grow and thrive. Unfortunately, due to financial circumstances, spousal abuse, addiction, and other factors, children can be exposed to unfit, potentially dangerous living conditions if their parents are unable to meet their children’s most basic needs.
According to the New Jersey Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCPP), your living conditions may be deemed unfit for a child if the environment jeopardizes the child’s physical and emotional safety. If you are facing allegations of unfit living conditions from a teacher, your spouse, or another individual who is concerned about your child, you are urged to contact an experienced DCPP attorney at your earliest convenience.
If the environment jeopardizes your child’s safety or exposes them to emotional or physical abuse, your living conditions will likely be considered unsafe. The following are examples of living conditions that are unfit for a child:
- Emotional abuse or neglect: This type of abuse occurs when the child’s physical and emotional needs are not met. Examples include:
- Ignoring the child’s need for love and affection.
- Verbally abusing the child.
- Exposing the child to domestic violence, drug or alcohol abuse, or other behaviors that could endanger the child.
- Withholding affection.
- Allowing the child to participate in bad behavior.
- Deliberately disregarding the child’s needs.
- Physical or sexual abuse: This can cause devastating physical and emotional injuries that can last a lifetime. Examples include hitting, kicking, or choking the child, shoving, throwing objects at the child, physically restraining the child. Sexual abuse is one of the most serious forms of abuse.
- Other forms of neglect: This includes everything from failing to provide adequate nutritious food, clothing and shelter, not providing the proper medical care, failing to supervise the child when necessary, and not enrolling the child in activities and programs that are in their best interest.
- Unsafe environment: This includes hazards in the home that could endanger the child, including fire hazards, gas leaks, no electricity, unhygienic bathrooms, and homes that are infested with pests, mold, or bed bugs.
What Consequences Can I Face if My Child’s Living Conditions Are Unfit?
If your child’s health and safety are called into question, and you have been accused of exposing your child to unsafe living conditions, the DCPP will likely conduct a preliminary investigation to determine whether the living conditions are meeting the child’s physical, mental, and emotional needs and whether further action is required. Depending on the outcome of the investigation, there are a range of legal consequences that you could face. For example, if you are declared an unfit parent due to the unsafe living conditions that your child has been exposed to, you may face the following legal consequences:
- Loss of custody.
- Transfer of custody to the other parent.
- Termination of parental rights.
- Modification of or denial of visitation rights.
If you and the child’s other parent are both deemed unfit, your child could be placed in foster care or with a close relative or friend.
Unless there is a history of violence or abuse, the DCPP makes every effort to help families stay together by working with all parties to ensure that the home environment is safe and healthy for the child. There are a range of services available, including therapy, financial counseling, substance abuse recovery, parenting classes, and other resources that prioritize the child’s best interests. An experienced DCPP attorney will address all of your questions and concerns and ensure that your legal and parental rights are protected.
South Jersey DCPP/DYFS Lawyers at the Law Offices of Theodore J. Baker Advocate for Parents Facing Allegations of Unfit Living Conditions
If you require legal representation after being accused of exposing your child to unfit living conditions, you are urged to contact our South Jersey DCPP/DYFS lawyers at the Law Offices of Theodore J. Baker. To schedule a confidential consultation, call us today at 856-210-9776 or contact us online. Located in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, we serve clients in South Jersey, including Haddonfield, Marlton, Medford, Moorestown, Mount Laurel, and Voorhees.