DCP&P Attorney in Ocean County, New Jersey

In New Jersey, the responsibilities you have as a parent go beyond providing your child with basics such as food, clothing, shelter, and access to education—they also include the obligation to protect your child from any abuse or neglect, and you must file a report with the New Jersey Division of Child Protection & Permanency if you suspect either is occurring.

Unlike many other states, which designate members of specific professions such as teachers or doctors as mandated reporters—and these individuals typically receive guidance and training on what signs of abuse or neglect to look for—in New Jersey, anyone who suspects child abuse has occurred or is occurring must notify authorities. Someone with the best of intentions may misinterpret a child's behavior or appearance as showing signs of abuse, and they make a report that brings DCP&P to your door. Unfortunately, individuals sometimes deliberately make false reports, for example, during a custody battle.

Whether you need to file a report because you suspect your child has been abused or you have been reported, it is essential to obtain experienced legal counsel. Contact the Lento Law Firm Family Law Team today at 888-535-3686 or send us your information via our contact form so we can learn more about your case.

The New Jersey Division of Child Protection & Permanency

The New Jersey Division of Child Protection & Permanency (DCP&P) is within the New Jersey Department of Children and Families. Its mission is “to assist all New Jersey residents in being safe, healthy, and connected.” Its responsibilities include investigating any reports of child abuse and neglect and determining whether the allegations can be substantiated or are unfounded. In the former case, DCP&P will establish a plan to address the issues; remedies may include family counseling or court proceedings. In the most serious cases, DCP&P will remove the child from the home for their safety and suggest that prosecutors file criminal charges against the alleged abuser.

DCP&P Cases and Reporting in Ocean County

Ocean County covers 914 square miles along the south-central portion of the Jersey Shore on the Atlantic Ocean. Two local DCP&P offices, one in Toms River and the other in Bayville, serve the residents of Ocean County.

The Ocean County DCP&P offices investigate cases of allegations committed or caused by the parent or guardian of a child under age 18 or someone entrusted with their care:

Child abuse – This includes acts performed on or in the presence of a child that cause physical or mental harm to the child or are dangerous to their morals. Examples include habitual use of profanity, committing unlawful acts in the presence of a child, excessive physical restraint of a child, isolating a child from contact with others, preventing a child from attending school, inappropriate sexual contact, abandonment, and cruelty.

Child neglect – This includes failing to provide adequate supervision, food, clothing, regular school education, medical care, and a safe living environment.

As noted above, in New Jersey, anyone who reasonably suspects child abuse or neglect is legally obligated to report it; failure to do so is a disorderly persons offense, which can result in up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. The Family Law Team at the Lento Law Firm can advise you if you need to make a report or have already done so.

DCP&P Investigations in Ocean County

When the New Jersey DCP&P receives a report of suspected child abuse or neglect in Ocean County, a caseworker from either the Toms River or Bayville offices visits the child's home within 24 hours to investigate. The caseworker inspects the living conditions and interviews the child, their caregiver, and any other occupants of the home. The caseworker can seek help from a judge or the police if any occupant of the home refuses to speak to them. If the caseworker determines that the child may be in immediate danger, they may remove the child from the home.

Within the next 60 days, the caseworker conducts and completes an investigation, which may include interviewing others who interact with the child, such as teachers, doctors, therapists, etc., reviewing records, and conducting additional home visits.

The findings of the caseworker's investigation will fall into one of these four categories:

Substantiated - The evidence establishes that the child has been abused or neglected, and the findings will be disclosed if there is a Child Abuse Record Information (CARI) check.

Established – While the evidence establishes that the child has been abused or neglected, there are aggravating and mitigating factors. DCP&P will maintain the investigation records, but the findings will not be disclosed if there is a CARI request.

Not Established – Evidence for abuse or neglect does not meet the state's definition, but it does show that the child was harmed or placed at risk of harm. DCP&P will maintain the investigation records, but the findings will not be disclosed if there is a CARI request.

Unfounded – There is not enough evidence to indicate the child has been abused or neglected. The findings will not be disclosed if there is a CARI request, and they may eventually be expunged.

DCP&P sends a letter to the child's parent, guardian, or caregiver notifying them of the findings of the investigation. When the DCP&P finds that allegations of child abuse or neglect are substantiated, they create a case plan that may include referral for services such as parenting skills training, domestic violence services, or therapy.

The Ocean County DCP&P Court Process

In some cases, the DCP&P initiates a court proceeding following their investigation. In the first step, DCP&P submits an Order to Show Cause, which is their proof for the accusation. The court sets a preliminary hearing if it determines the case should move forward. At a fact-finding hearing, the DCP&P presents their evidence, and the accused can present their own evidence. If the court determines there was abuse or neglect, the court holds a dispositional hearing to decide if the child should return home and if the accused person should receive counseling or treatment, which would trigger the need for review hearings to monitor their progress. If a case stays open for more than a year, the court holds a permanency hearing to present a permanent solution for the child; if the accused person is the child's parent or guardian, they can present an alternative plan.

The Family Law Team at the Lento Law Firm Can Help

If you live in Ocean County and you suspect your child has been abused or neglected, or if you face accusations of such conduct, contact the Lento Law Firm Family Law Team today. We have extensive experience helping parents protect their children and their own rights. Call 888-535-3686 or use our contact form so we can schedule a consult

Contact a Family Law Attorney Today!

Attorney Joseph D. Lento has more than a decade of experience practicing Family Law in New Jersey. If you are having any uncertainties about what the future may hold for you and your family, contact our offices today. Family Law Attorney Joseph Lento will go above and beyond the needs for any client and fight for what is fair.

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