If the New Jersey Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCPP), formerly known as the Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS), has come to your home and taken your child, you understandably want to do everything you can to bring your child home as quickly as possible. However, at this point, you need to be extremely careful, and you must go through the formal legal process for restoring your family. This can be very challenging; and, to make sure you avoid mistakes, it is strongly recommended that you hire an experienced New Jersey DYFS lawyer to help.
6 Key Facts for Parents Dealing with the New Jersey DCPP
Here are some key facts you need to know if the New Jersey DCPP has taken your child:
1. The New Jersey DCPP Will Only Take Your Child After Conducting an Investigation
Prior to removing a child from his or her home, the New Jersey DCPP will conduct a thorough investigation. This means that if the DCPP has taken your child, the Division already has evidence suggesting that it is unsafe for your child to live with you. As a result, at this point, you are facing an uphill battle. In order to bring your child home, you will need to convince a judge that either: (i) the DCPP’s findings are inaccurate; or (ii) the circumstances in your home have changed significantly.
2. You Will Need to Go to Court to Bring Your Child Back Home
After the DCPP takes your child, you are entitled to a fact-finding hearing in court. This is your chance to tell your side of the story, question any witnesses against you and dispute the DCPP’s findings. Hiring an experienced New Jersey DYFS lawyer will give you the best chance of success, and you will want to begin building your case with your lawyer as soon as possible.
3. You May Be Able to Have Your Child Placed with a Relative
If you are unable to bring your child home immediately, you may be able to have him or her placed with a relative instead of going into foster care. This can be beneficial for a variety of reasons, and it is an option you will want to discuss with your New Jersey DYFS lawyer.
4. Allegations of Child Abuse or Neglect Can Also Lead to Criminal Charges
If you are being accused of child abuse or neglect, your New Jersey DCPP case could also potentially lead to criminal charges. Again, you need to be extremely careful, and you should speak with a lawyer right away.
5. You Still Have Options if You Lose Your Case Against the New Jersey DCPP
Winning your case against the New Jersey DCPP can be challenging. If you lose your case, you need to understand that you still have options available for reuniting with your child. For example, you can file an appeal within 45 days; and, depending on the circumstances involved, your lawyer may be able to help you pursue other options as well.
6. Always Challenge a Finding of Child Abuse
Even if DCPP (formerly called DYFS) merely finds that child abuse has been established, that finding can and should be challenged. If not appealed, it will be a permanent part of your record and may prevent you from obtaining or keeping certain employment; coaching or supervising children in the future, or obtaining some types of volunteer work
When Can DCPP Remove a Child from the Home in New Jersey?
While DCPP can remove a child from the home in some circumstances, it can only do so after making a clear finding that removal is in the child’s best interests. This sets a high bar, as it will be in a child’s best interests to remain with his or her parents in the vast majority of circumstances. Even so, removals do happen, and, as a parent, it is important to know when DCPP can take your child.
Typically, removal occurs when a DCPP investigation uncovers evidence of abuse or neglect that places the child in imminent danger. In these cases, DCPP case workers can remove the child immediately and without obtaining a court order. However, they still need to obtain a court order after the fact, and parents can—and should—hire a lawyer to represent them in court. Oftentimes, case workers will err on the side of protecting the children involved, and they may think that removing a child from the home is in the child’s best interests even when this is not actually the case.
Even when DCPP case workers find evidence of abuse or neglect, this won’t necessarily be enough to justify removing a child from his or her home. To justify removal, the abuse or neglect must place the child in “imminent danger.” This means that further exposure to the home environment will risk resulting in physical injury or death. A finding of imminent danger may be warranted if:
- The child has already suffered injuries that are consistent with neglect or abuse
- Other children in the home have suffered injuries that are consistent with neglect or abuse
- A parent is out of control due to alcohol or drug addiction or abuse
However, DCPP case workers often misjudge, DCPP case workers can get caught up in the emotions of witnessing a child in a potentially abusive or neglectful environment. While this type of home environment may warrant some form of remedial action, removing the child from the home is an extreme remedy that is only warranted in extreme circumstances.
What Should You Do if DCPP Has Removed Your Child from Your Home?
If DCPP removes your child from your home, it is legally required to provide you with several pieces of information. This includes notifying you of where your child has been taken and notifying you of when and where the removal hearing has been scheduled. At this point, you should hire a family lawyer right away. Your lawyer can help you prepare for your hearing, represent you in court, and deal with DCPP on your behalf.
Will I Be Able to Get My Child Back?
Even after DCPP takes your child, it is possible to get your child back. This is true whether DCPP has wrongfully removed your child from your home or case workers properly determined that your child was in imminent danger. When you talk to a lawyer, your lawyer will explain everything you need to know, and your lawyer will help you take all of the steps you need to take to restore your family.
Talk to a New Jersey DYFS Lawyer Today
If the New Jersey DCPP has taken your child, we strongly encourage you to contact us right away. To speak with one of our experienced New Jersey DYFS lawyers in confidence, call 877-435-6371 or send us a message online now.