Are you a resident of the State of New Jersey who has been contacted by the Division of Child Protection and Permanency about an allegation of child abuse or child neglect? You are probably confused and concerned about what to do, especially if you yourself have been accused of abuse or neglect. This is normal. As difficult as it might be, do not panic! The DCP&P is not a law enforcement agency. Rather, it is a state agency tasked with investigating these kinds of allegations for the purpose of ensuring children’s safety. DCP&P does not bring criminal charges against alleged perpetrators of child abuse or neglect, although information gathered during an investigation is frequently shared with police officers and other law enforcement officials who are free to do so.
If you and your family are a target of a DCP&P investigation of child abuse or child neglect, you should consider speaking to a compassionate New Jersey DCP&P attorney as soon as possible. We can help you understand what is happening and what you can expect to happen in the future based on your circumstances. It is devastating to hear that an innocent junior member or your family may have been abused or neglected, but never more so than when you or another adult family member is thought to be responsible. Give us a call and get the advice of an experienced DCP&P lawyer about how to proceed.
The Division of Child Protection and Permanency, once known as the Division of Youth and Family Services, is required to investigate all allegations of child abuse or child neglect in the State of New Jersey. It does so by gathering data via interviews with an alleged victim’s family members, teachers, doctors, and others with whom a child has had regular interaction. If in the course of conducting an investigation the DCP&P finds evidence that abuse or neglect is likely to have occurred, the state agency can initiate a case in the New Jersey Superior Court.
DCP&P investigations are conducted by caseworkers who ask the child’s household members and others about the allegation in question. Caseworkers are also required to communicate with all children in your household, not just the child at the center of the investigation. A caseworker is not permitted to tell you who made the allegation of child abuse or neglect but can provide you with information about the details of the allegation. The agency will send a letter to you no more than 45 days after the investigation concludes which states the findings of the investigation. If this letter states that the charge was “unfounded,” then the investigation is over. If the letter states that the charges were “substantiated,” then the caseworkers believe that the allegations of abuse or neglect have merit, which allows the legal process to continue in court.
Once an allegation has been substantiated, you have 20 days to appeal it. The best way to do so is by partnering with a skilled DCP&P lawyer. This process can be fraught with red tape and intimidating interactions with state authorities. It is easy to say or do the wrong thing and make your situation worse. A DCP&P attorney can guide you through the court process and explain what your rights are during this time. You may have restrictions on travel, employment, or interactions with minors. We will do our best to minimize the uncertainty and anxiety associated with the court process. We know your highest priority is your children’s best interest, and in the event of unfounded allegations against you, we will do everything in our power to keep your family together.