The New Jersey family law attorneys at Aretsky Law Group, P.C., are experienced in child-welfare defense involving Child Protection and Permanency (CP&P or DCPP), formerly known as the Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS). The mission of CP&P, which is part of New Jersey’s Department of Children and Families, is “to ensure the safety, permanency and well-being of children and to support families.”
When someone has reason to believe that a child is being abused or neglected, it is considered their responsibility to report that suspected abuse or neglect. The alleged behavior should be reported to New Jersey’s 24-hour child-abuse hotline: 1-877-NJ ABUSE (1-877-652-2873). The caller can remain anonymous. As long as the charges are made “in good faith,” the caller will not be subject to either civil or criminal charges should the suspicions prove to be unfounded. Of course, if you believe your child—or any child—is in immediate danger, you should call 911.
Reports to the hotline are referred to the local CP&P office. That office investigates the charges and determines how to proceed.
The charge of child abuse is very serious. It can affect child custody, parenting rights, and the rights of minors. If the court substantiates the claim against you, you can even lose the right to see your child. Whichever side of the case you are on—whether you believe your child is being abused or if you have been falsely accused of abuse—you should immediately contact a New Jersey DYFS attorney with experience in such mat-ters.Determinations
Investigators will come to a decision regarding whether or not the child is in danger and will make one of three basic determinations; they will decide whether the charge is unfounded, unsubstantiated, or substantiated.
Unfounded– If the investigators find no sign of abuse the charge is said to be unfounded.
Unsubstantiated– If there are some signs of abuse but the investi-gators do not believe there is substantial cause to intervene, the charge is called un-substantiated.
Substantiated– If the agency determines that there is enough evi-dence to enter the accused into their Central Registry, the charge has been substantiated and the accused is notified that CP&P (DYFS) is now involved.When the DCPP Takes a Case to Court
When Child Protection and Permanency takes a case to court, the procedure is long and complicated. If you learn that you have been accused of child abuse and that the claim has been substantiated, the first thing you should do is contact a New Jersey lawyer with experience in these matters!
There are several steps involved when a case goes to court, each involving a different type of hearing.
Step #1: Order to State Cause and Complaint
CP&P states what it is alleging and what action it wants the court to take. Among the various actions it could recommend is the removal of the child from your home.
Step #2: Preliminary Hearing
The judge must decide whether or not the case should continue and if it should, where the child should live until the case is resolved.
Step #3: Fact-Finding Hearing
CP&P presents its evidence. The accused may also present a defense. The judge uses the information presented by both sides to determine whether or not the alleged abuse actually occurred.
Step #4: Dispositional Hearing
If the judge determines that the abuse did occur, then the court orders steps the ac-cused must take. This might include such things as undergoing professional evalua-tions, receiving counseling, or taking part in substance-abuse treatments.
Step #5: Compliance Review Hearings
The court monitors the evaluations submitted by the various professionals to determine whether or not the child may live in the home of the accused upon completion of the recommendations.
Step #6: Permanency Hearings
After a case has a been open for more than 12 months, CP&P presents a long-term plan for the child. The accused has the right to offer a different plan.
If the court concludes that the home of the accused does not provide a safe environ-ment for the child, it can file a separate court case to take away the parental rights of the accused.Experienced CP&P (DYFS) Attorneys
If you believe your child is being abused, it is imperative that you protect your child by following the steps described earlier and that you contact a qualified attorney to help you protect your family.
It is equally important that you retain a lawyer if you have been wrongly accused of child abuse—especially if the claim has been substantiated by CP&P. As you can see, the process is very complicated. If retaining your parental rights is important to you, it is crucial that you obtain the assistance of an experienced family law attorney to help you navigate the system, to ensure that your side of the story is heard, and to be kept aware of how your case is progressing.
If you have been unjustly accused of child abuse, call the dedicated DYFS attorneys at Aretsky Law Group, P.C., 24/7 at 800-537-4154.