Just about everybody has heard the acronym “DYFS,” which stands for the Division of Youth and Family Services. However, many do not realize changes that went into effect in 2013. In addition to revamping other aspects of the state agency, DYFS became the Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCP&P). However, your most important consideration is likely how the government plays into your divorce – or custody fight.
DCP&P isn’t necessarily a part of all custody cases of married or unmarried parents. The agency is generally called in when there are issues of child welfare or the need for child protection. Truth be told, the agency’s involvement could start with a simple anonymous phone call reporting child neglect or child abuse.
Although it’s hard to estimate the numbers, a fair share of reported cases winds up unfounded. It could be that one of the parents figured making a report would be a good strategic move. Or maybe, vindictiveness played a part. Meanwhile, 29 states across the country have defined penalties for false reports of child abuse. New Jersey is not one of them.
Unfortunately, there may be good cause for the Division of Child Protection and Permanency to investigate reports. The focus isn’t always about removing the child from the home. Of course, the first issue is whether the child has been harmed or is in danger of being harmed. Although this list is general, these are among the most common complaints investigated by DCP&P:
- Chronic neglect
- Physical child abuse
- Sexual abuse
- Emotional abuse
According to a report submitted by the New Jersey state government, maltreatment is often related to the caregiver’s mental health status. Allegations of substance abuse are also critical. It goes without saying that both may also contribute to the end of a marriage.
How the Process Works
It’s an alarming thing when DCP&P announces their investigation into your child’s welfare. In fact, you may be surprised to learn of their involvement. Depending on the nature of the complaint, a caseworker could show up at your child’s school. You will not be provided with advance notice as the emphasis is on protecting your child.
In the meantime, there’s also the possibility that DCP&P may make a home visit to investigate the allegations concerning your child. Once they have produced proper identification, it is up to you to determine if you want to talk to investigators. However, your refusal will just mean that the court will become involved. A judge will then rule on whether an investigation is necessary – or not.
During the course of the investigation, the caseworkers may speak with your children’s teachers and doctors. Your permission is not necessary. When it comes down to it, the whole goal is to look out for your child’s welfare and protection.
There is no doubt that the process is a scary one. One of your biggest fears may be the thought that your child could be removed from your household. However, this option is only the goal when circumstances suggest your child is in imminent danger.
In reviewing the allegations of child abuse or neglect, the end result includes one of four conclusions. The determination may show that the complaints were substantiated, established, not established, or unfounded.
Depending on the findings, DCP&P may suggest parenting classes. In others, family therapy might appear warranted. A case plan or safety plan will be developed as the case progresses.