Camden County DCP&P Attorney

The Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCP&P, or the Division) is a division of the Department of Children and Families (DCF) in New Jersey. One of DCP&P's chief responsibilities is investigating reports of suspected child abuse and neglect. The DCP&P can also take steps to ensure a child's safety when it finds evidence abuse or neglect is occurring.

The extent to which the Division can exercise this power isn't minor. Depending on the nature of the division's findings, children could be removed from the care of their parents or caregivers.

Has someone reported you to DCP&P for alleged abuse or neglect of a child in Camden County, NJ? If so, protecting your rights is critical now.

One way to do so is to enlist professional legal assistance. Our Criminal Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm is qualified to offer the representation you need in these circumstances. Learn more about what we can do for you by contacting us online or calling us at 888-535-3686 today.

Reporting Suspected Child Abuse in Camden County, NJ

Anyone in Camden County who suspects a child may be the victim of abuse or neglect can report their concerns by calling the Child Abuse Hotline at 1-877-NJ ABUSE (652-2873). They should also call 911 if they believe a child is in immediate danger.

A screener from the State Central Registry (SCR) will gather initial information from a caller. A screener is a caseworker qualified to handle these types of reports.

Someone calling the SCR should provide as much of the following information as possible when doing so:

  • The identity of the child who may be in harm's way
  • The identity of the child's caregiver
  • The identity of the party or parties the caller suspects may be guilty of abuse or neglect
  • The ages and addresses of all the above
  • The nature of the alleged abuse/neglect
  • Information about any injuries the child may have potentially sustained
  • Any other information regarding what caused the caller to be concerned for a child's safety in the first place
  • When the suspected abuse or neglect occurred (or when the caller became aware of it)
  • Where the alleged abuse/neglect occurred
  • The child's current location, if the caller has this information
  • Whether the alleged perpetrator currently has access to the child
  • Whether the caller feels urgent action is necessary due to a threat of immediate harm to a child

Someone who suspects a child has been the victim of abuse or neglect in Camden County, NJ, can call the Hotline to trigger a DCP&P investigation 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They don't need to provide their identity when doing so.

The law protects callers from civil liability. If someone reports suspected child abuse or neglect in “good faith,” meaning they genuinely had reason to worry for a child's safety, they typically can't be sued if it turns out their concerns are unfounded.

In addition, the law actively encourages people to report suspected abuse or neglect. According to DCF, someone may qualify as a “disorderly person” under NJ law if they fail to report their concerns when they have good reason to believe a child may be in danger.

The Process of a DCP&P Investigation in Camden County, NJ

The DCP&P will typically begin investigating a report of alleged child abuse or neglect within 24 hours of receiving said report. However, before taking any additional steps, the Division or SCR screener will review the basic details a caller has provided to confirm that launching an investigation is necessary. In rare cases, the Division may not take significant action if it doesn't appear a report is credible.

The process involves the following steps if the DCP&P elects to move forward with an investigation:

  • Home visit: The Division will assign a caseworker to a case. They will usually begin their investigation by visiting the home of the alleged victim and their caretakers. Be aware that the caseworker can seek assistance from the police, courts, or both if a parent or caretaker refuses to cooperate with an investigation. That said, it's wise for someone to contact an attorney as soon as possible if a caseworker visits their home because they have reason to believe they may be guilty of abuse or neglect.
  • Interviews: If a parent or caretaker cooperates with the caseworker during their visit, the caseworker will often interview the child and any other relevant individuals or parties at the home. This may involve interviewing the parents/caretakers and any other children who live in the home.
  • Safety assessment: A DCP&P caseworker will also check the home for any safety issues that may indicate a child is at risk. If a caseworker identifies any risk factors, the Division may ask the child's parents/caretakers to enter into a Safety Protection Plan.

A Safety Protection Plan involves various requirements and conditions a parent or caretaker must abide by to ensure the well-being of children in their care. The Division may take additional action against a caretaker who doesn't abide by the terms of their Safety Protection Plan.

Factors a caseworker may account for when determining whether a Safety Protection Plan is necessary include (but aren't necessarily limited to) the following:

  • Whether a child has access to essentials like food and water
  • The general cleanliness of the child's living environment
  • The presence of drugs, weapons, and other potentially harmful materials or items

You may not know how to respond when a caseworker arrives at your home. You don't want to arouse their suspicion by not letting them investigate. However, you might also worry that speaking to a caseworker without a lawyer present is unwise.

Understanding how to handle the situation at any stage of an investigation can be very stressful. That doesn't mean it has to be. When you hire an attorney with the Lento Law Firm's Criminal Defense Team, you'll have assistance from someone who can help you better understand how to navigate these circumstances.

How the DCP&P Categorizes the Findings of an Investigation

The Division may assign a case to one of the following categories upon concluding its initial investigation:

  • Substantiated: If a preponderance of evidence confirms that child abuse or neglect has likely occurred, the Division will usually categorize a report as Substantiated. If an investigator determines a report is Substantiated, it usually means they've identified certain “absolute conditions,” which this overview will cover in greater detail below. However, even if the caseworker doesn't identify these absolute conditions, they may nevertheless justify classifying a report as Substantiated due to other aggravating or mitigating factors. The Division will usually share its findings for a Child Abuse Record Information (CARI) check if it determines a report is Substantiated. By doing so, the Division will add the name of someone suspected of child abuse or neglect to a state child abuse registry. This can affect everything from an individual's ability to secure employment to their right to see their children.
  • Established: The Division doesn't always categorize a report as Substantiated when a preponderance of evidence indicates abuse or neglect has occurred. Sometimes, DCP&P will categorize a report as Established instead. The Division may categorize a report as Established (which is less “severe” than a classification of Substantiated) if a caseworker identifies relevant mitigating factors.
  • Not Established: A classification of Not Established means evidence doesn't suggest that a child has been the victim of direct abuse or neglect. However, a classification of Not Established means evidence does show that a child was otherwise harmed or at risk of harm.
  • Unfounded: A caseworker may conclude their investigation by determining there isn't sufficient evidence indicating a child has been abused, neglected, or placed in harm's way. The Division will categorize a report as Unfounded in these circumstances.

Taking proactive steps is vital during an investigation. You don't want to wait to learn the outcome before you begin protecting your rights. As soon as you discover DCP&P is investigating you for alleged child abuse or neglect, contact our Criminal Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm to get to work on your case.

What are ‘Absolute conditions' in Camden County, NJ, and DCP&P investigations?

The types of conditions that may cause the Division to immediately categorize a report of alleged child abuse or neglect as Substantiated are:

  • Neglect or abuse resulting in a child's death or near-death
  • A child being subjected to sexual activity
  • A child being exposed to sexual materials or activities that are inappropriate for a child of their age
  • A child requiring hospitalization or other significant medical treatment due to a condition that a parent or caregiver has inflicted on them
  • Evidence a child has been the victim of repeated instances of abuse
  • A parent or caregiver failing to take action despite knowing a child has likely been the victim of repeated instances of abuse
  • A child being harmed or at risk of harm because a parent or caretaker failed to provide a child with adequate care

Any of these conditions can justify categorizing a report as Substantiated. When a report is Substantiated, information about the alleged abuse or neglect is accessible via New Jersey's child abuse database. This is one of many reasons it's important to guard against such a classification if possible.

Camden County, NJ, DCP&P Investigations: What You Need to Know About Aggravating and Mitigating Factors

Remember, even when a caseworker doesn't identify absolute conditions that require classifying a report as Substantiated, the Division may still categorize a report as Substantiated after evaluating aggravating factors like the following:

  • Evidence a child has been the victim of neglect or abuse at an institutional level
  • Evidence a parent or caretaker has failed to abide by the terms of a Child Safety Plan, court order, or other such official plan meant to ensure the safety and welfare of a child in their care
  • Whether the child has any unique vulnerabilities related to such factors as their age, delayed development, etc.
  • Evidence of long-term physical, psychological, or emotional effects of abuse or neglect
  • Signs indicating a child has been the victim of a pattern of abuse
  • Any other evidence indicating it's necessary to remove a child from the home of a parent or caretaker to ensure their safety

However, the Division may also account for mitigating factors. Depending on the circumstances, mitigating factors could give DCP&P reason not to classify a case as Substantiated.

Common mitigating factors the Division considers include:

  • A parent or caretaker taking remedial action to address risk factors before the conclusion of an investigation
  • Evidence indicating a parent or caretaker who is generally loving and responsible engaged in a “one-off” instance of abuse or neglect due to extraordinary, temporary, or situational stressors that are unlikely to cause future instances of neglect or abuse
  • Other evidence indicating an instance of abuse or neglect was an isolated incident
  • Evidence indicating the nature/impact of the alleged abuse or neglect was minor

These mitigating factors indicate something very important: It may be possible to address the Division's concerns during an investigation. Although no one can guarantee what the outcome of an investigation will be, a lawyer might help you influence the final classification of a report someone has made against you. This is yet another way you may benefit from hiring our Criminal Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm.

It's also worth noting that the Division can alert law enforcement when it determines doing so is necessary based on the outcome of an investigation. Hiring a lawyer can thus help you prepare for any future criminal proceedings that may arise from this matter.

Protect Your Rights During a Camden County, NJ, DCP&P Investigation

If someone has contacted DCP&P in Camden County, NJ, because they claim to suspect you of child abuse or neglect, take the matter as seriously as you would a criminal case. The outcome of an investigation could prevent you from seeing your kids, getting certain types of jobs, and more. An investigation could also lead to a criminal case.

That's not meant to frighten you. It's meant to encourage you to protect yourself with professional legal representation.

That's exactly what we offer at the Lento Law Firm. Our team has the experience and qualifications necessary to handle a case like yours. We're prepared to relieve your burdens during what may otherwise be a stressful time. Find out more about how the Lento Law Firm's Criminal Defense Team can help by calling us at 888-535-3686 or submitting our online contact form.

​​​Contact The Lento Law Firm Today

When it comes to criminal defense cases, you need the right person in your corner. To learn more about how Mr. Lento can help you, call the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686. or contact him online.

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