A recent lawsuit challenges the constitutionality of NJ's Child Abuse Registry, under which a person may be placed for a lifetime, regardless of how much time passes after the offense. Once you receive notice of possible placement on the Registry, you have only 20 days to challenge the placement. After this time, there is no appeal process or legal way to get a name removed from the Registry. The plaintiff in the lawsuit committed an offense as a juvenile and thereafter had 25 years without re-offense. Despite being a minor at the time of the offense, he was placed on the Child Abuse Registry, which has severely limited job prospects over the course of his life.
What is the Child Abuse Registry?
The Division of Child Protection and Permanency, or DCP&P, maintains the Child Abuse Registry, which lists the names of people they have found to have committed an act of abuse against a child. Ideally, the state intended that the Registry would prevent those who pose a substantial risk of abuse from working with children. But the reality is that the Registry has branded some people as abusers for life when they pose little or no risk to children.
Who Can View the Registry?
The Child Abuse Registry is not open to the public and it cannot be searched online. A person or agency must submit a formal request and rationale before accessing records. But the system can be used to perform background checks, especially for agencies or companies that serve the public or any vulnerable group.
How is a Person Placed on the Child Abuse Registry?
Typically, a person is placed after a Substantiated Finding by DCP&P. DCP&P can make one of four possible findings, with Substantiated being the most serious. This finding means DCP&P believed that the person investigated abused or neglected a child, often with aggravating factors, such as sexual abuse or serious injury. If there are no aggravating factors, DCP&P will typically make an Established finding. DCP&P can also find that the allegations were Not Established or were Unfounded, meaning there was a lack of proof, or the evidence showed that no abuse or neglect occurred. Only an individual with a Substantiated finding is placed on the Child Abuse Registry.
Appeal Rights for Substantiated Findings
If DCP&P makes a finding of Substantiated in your case, you have the right to appeal, but you have only 20 days to submit a written appeal and request a hearing. Because of the brief period for appeal, it is preferable to contact an attorney as soon as you are aware of the DCP&P investigation.
How a DCP&P Attorney Can Help
It is vital to fight placement on the Child Abuse Registry and to do this, you need the support of an experienced DCP&P attorney. A good DCP&P attorney may be able to shift the findings of the DCP&P downward, preventing placement on the Child Abuse Registry. Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Firm Team have stood by countless New Jersey families as they navigated the DCP&P process of child abuse and neglect allegations. Contact the Lento Law Firm today by calling 888-535-3686 or online.