Monmouth County DCP&P Attorney

In New Jersey, the Division of Child Protection and Permanency (aka DCP&P or the “Division”) is the public agency responsible for ensuring the welfare of children in the Garden State. The DCP&P investigates reports of suspected child abuse and neglect in Monmouth County and throughout NJ.

Its powers can be very significant. For example, if the Division finds abuse is likely occurring, it has the power to remove children from their parents' homes.

You need a proper defense if you're a Monmouth County resident currently under investigation by the DCP&P. Protect your rights by enlisting the help of criminal defense lawyers qualified to handle a case like yours.

The Criminal Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm is available to offer the defense you need when a Monmouth County DCP&P investigation threatens your parental rights. Get started today by submitting our online contact form or by calling us at 888-535-3686.

Reporting Suspected Child Abuse or Neglect in Monmouth County, NJ

The Division belongs to NJ's Department of Children and Families (DCF). The DCF encourages anyone who may have knowledge of potential child abuse or neglect to call the Child Abuse Hotline at 1-877 NJ ABUSE (1-877-652-2873) to report the issue. Anyone who suspects a child may be in immediate danger should also call 911.

A “screener” for the State Central Registry (SCR) will typically handle the call when someone reports suspected abuse or neglect to the Hotline. This caseworker gathers basic information when someone initially files a report. The information they'll try to gather includes:

  • Identifying details: Someone calling the Hotline to report suspected child abuse in Monmouth County should be prepared to state the identities of the child they believe is being abused and the individual (or individuals) they believe are guilty of said abuse. If they have any other relevant information, such as the ages of the parties involved, they should provide this, too.
  • The nature of the abuse or neglect: The screener will ask a caller to provide information about the specific ways they believe a child is being abused or neglected. Someone calling the Hotline may also provide related information, such as details about injuries they suspect a victim has sustained. The goal is to find out why this individual feels the need to make a report.
  • Date and location info: A screener may ask a caller to explain when and where they believe the abuse has occurred. During the conversation, a screener might also ask if the caller believes the alleged abuser currently has access to the alleged victim.
  • Information about urgent needs: A caller might have reason to believe a child is in immediate danger. Again, they should call both the Hotline and 911 in these circumstances. However, the SCR screener will likely ask about this topic.

The Hotline is toll-free and available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Someone making a report via the Hotline is generally protected from criminal or civil liability. That means you can't file a lawsuit against someone for making a false report to the Hotline.

In fact, New Jersey law encourages people to make reports whenever they suspect abuse may be happening. The law states someone may qualify as a “disorderly person” in New Jersey if they believe abuse or neglect is happening but fail to file a report accordingly.

DCP&P Investigations in Monmouth County, NJ: What the Process Involves

A Division investigation will begin within 24 hours of someone making a report. The DCP&P can temporarily remove a child from a home or other such potentially dangerous environment when it determines there is an urgent need to do so. However, the DCP&P itself states this is uncommon.

A Division investigation in Monmouth County will usually involve these steps:

  • Assessment: Not all reports lead to official investigations. The DCP&P will assess an initial report to determine if it's credible.
  • Home visit: A caseworker investigating a report will usually begin by visiting the home of the suspected abuser and/or their victim. If someone has filed a report accusing you of abuse or neglect, be aware that the investigator can't identify the person who made the report during their visit. That said, the caseworker will usually attempt to describe the nature of the complaint as specifically as possible without revealing the caller's identity.
  • Interviews and safety assessment: An investigator may check the home environment for safety issues that could indicate a child is at risk. They will also want to interview you, your child, and anyone else in the home (such as other children) who may have valuable knowledge or insights.

An investigator might ask you to agree to a Safety Protection Plan if they identify risk factors that need to be mitigated to ensure a child's welfare. Factors a caseworker will consider when deciding whether a Safety Protection Plan is necessary include:

  • Availability of food, water, clothing, and other such essentials
  • The environment's overall cleanliness
  • Whether a child has access to drugs, weapons, or other potential hazards

It's understandable if you're reluctant to let an investigator into your home at this stage. However, you might reasonably worry that not letting an investigator into your home will arouse their suspicion.

Knowing what to do at all stages of a Monmouth County DCP&P investigation can be stressful if you've never been in this position before. This is one of many reasons to hire an attorney. Our Criminal Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm can offer assistance throughout the process.

Potential Findings of a DCP&P Investigation in Monmouth County

The Division assigns cases it investigates to various categories depending on the findings of their investigations. These categories are:

  • Substantiated: The Division will classify a report as Substantiated when a preponderance of evidence suggests abuse or neglect has occurred. An investigator must typically identify certain “absolute conditions” (this overview addresses said conditions further down) to classify a report as Substantiated. Or, they may determine a report is Substantiated based on other aggravating and/or mitigating factors. When a report is Substantiated, DCP&P typically alerts the relevant local authorities to move forward with prosecution. The Division may also share its findings for a Child Abuse Record Information (CARI) check. In other words, if a report against you is determined to be Substantiated, the Division may add your name to a state child abuse registry.
  • Established: Sometimes, a preponderance of evidence suggests that abuse or neglect under NJ law has occurred, but the Division will nevertheless decline to classify a report as Substantiated. Instead, the DCP&P may classify a case as Established. It might do so if an investigator identifies sufficient mitigating factors.
  • Not Established: An investigator might find the evidence doesn't suggest a child has been abused or neglected as defined by NJ law. Regardless, they may find a child has otherwise been harmed or placed at risk. The DCP&P will often classify a report as Not Established in these circumstances.
  • Unfounded: An investigation might indicate a child has not been abused or neglected and has not been otherwise harmed or put in harm's way. The DCP&P will classify a report as Unfounded when an investigation doesn't indicate a child is at risk.

The Division can take your kids away from you if it finds you've likely committed child abuse or neglect. Additionally, the long-term consequences of the DCP&P's findings could have significant implications for many areas of your life.

For example, perhaps the Division classifies your case as Substantiated. If this causes your name to end up on the state child abuse registry, you might struggle to secure certain types of employment going forward.

Worrying about the potential consequences of an investigation is unproductive. The best step you can take now is to coordinate with a legal professional who can offer a sound defense. At the Lento Law Firm, our Criminal Defense Team is prepared to develop a strategy tailored to the details of your case.

‘Absolute Conditions' in DCP&P Investigations

Absolute conditions that may automatically warrant classifying a DCP&P report as Substantiated are:

  • A child dying from neglect or abuse
  • A child nearly dying from neglect or abuse
  • A child being subjected to sexual activity or exposed to sexual materials
  • A parent or caregiver inflicting a condition on a child that results in the child's hospitalization or otherwise causes the child to need significant medical treatment
  • Repeated instances of abuse
  • Failure to take action on the part of a parent or guardian who is aware a child has been the victim of repeated instances of abuse
  • Failure to provide a child with necessary care, resulting in a child being harmed or at risk of harm

It can be intimidating when someone with the power to take your kids is investigating you. Protect yourself with help from the Criminal Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm.

Aggravating and Mitigating Factors

A caseworker may also account for aggravating and mitigating factors when investigating a report. Aggravating factors an investigator may consider include:

  • Signs a child has been the victim of institutional neglect or abuse
  • Failure to comply with a court order or other such conditions (such as a Child Safety Plan) meant to ensure a child's safety and welfare
  • Any unique vulnerabilities of the alleged victim, such as their age, delayed development, etc.
  • Signs a child has experienced long-term physical, emotional, or psychological effects of abuse or neglect
  • Signs indicating a pattern of abuse
  • Any other signs indicating a child's safety depend on separating them from an alleged abuser or neglectful parent/guardian

However, an investigator may also account for mitigating factors that could result in a more lenient final classification. Potential mitigating factors in a case like this include:

  • Whether an alleged perpetrator takes any remedial actions before an investigation into them concludes
  • Whether it appears an otherwise loving and responsible parent or guardian uncharacteristically engaged in a “one-off” incident of abuse or neglect due to stressors of an extraordinary, situational, or temporary nature
  • Whether there's reason to believe the abuse or neglect was an isolated incident
  • Whether it appears the impact of the alleged abuse or neglect is minor

A lawyer can help you understand the steps you may take to remedy the Division's concerns. Although an attorney can't promise a specific outcome to your investigation, they may explain how you can best present yourself and your relationships with your children as the Division looks into your case.

A Monmouth County DCP&P Investigation Can Lead to Criminal Charges

The DCP&P doesn't have all the powers of a law enforcement agency. It can't bring criminal charges against you directly.

That said, Division investigators may find evidence suggesting a crime has been committed. They can (and typically will) alert the authorities accordingly.

A DCP&P case can turn into a criminal case in Monmouth County, NJ. You need to prepare yourself for this potential outcome. One way to do so is to hire a criminal defense lawyer to represent you as soon as you become aware of a DCP&P investigation.

Understanding Your Rights During a Monmouth County DCP&P Investigation

The potential outcomes of DCP&P investigations are wide-ranging. Although it's possible an investigation into you will result in no further action, you must consider the possibility that an investigation could lead to such outcomes as:

  • Losing your parental/guardian rights
  • Having your name added to a child abuse registry which can affect employment prospects, personal relationships, etc.
  • Criminal charges, which may lead to such penalties as fines and jail time
  • Changes to existing child custody/visitation arrangements

You must also consider the way such an investigation can affect the emotional and mental well-being of both your children and yourself. A DCP&P investigation can be a stressful time for everyone involved.

Guard against this by hiring a Monmouth County DCP&P defense lawyer to handle your case. You'll feel more confident navigating these circumstances when you have representation from a legal professional whose job is to protect your rights.

At the Lento Law Firm, our Criminal Defense Team will ensure you have the defense you're entitled to now. Learn more by calling us at 888-535-3686 or contacting us through our online 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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