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DFYS is Now DCPP But the Challenges for Parents, Children Remain the Same

Child cyingThe Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCPP) was formally but still popularly known as “The Division of Youth and Family Services” or DYFS. In years past, DYFS had its share of problems – including child deaths – that tarnished its reputation and engendered public suspicion which, in turn, hindered cooperation.

The Division is charged with the responsibility of making sure that children are protected from harm or the risk of harm. Therefore, once they become involved with a family, they must be certain that the risk of harm has been eliminated. Changing the name was a way for the division to re-brand itself in the hope of creating better public relations and more community support.

Unfortunately, aside from a reshuffling of paper and people, little has changed. The divisions continues to exercise unbridled power over children and families and, at times,  families are left more broken by the process then they were when DCPP first got involved all in the name of “child protection.”

NJSA 9:6-8.9 defines an abused child as follows:

For purposes of this act:

“Abused child” means a child under the age of 18 years whose parent, guardian, or other person having his custody and control:

a.  Inflicts or allows to be inflicted upon such child physical injury by other than accidental means which causes or creates a substantial risk of death, or serious or protracted disfigurement, or protracted impairment of physical or emotional health or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily organ;

b.  Creates or allows to be created a substantial or ongoing risk of physical injury to such child by other than accidental means which would be likely to cause death or serious or protracted disfigurement, or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily organ; or

Too often, children are removed from of their home and placed with complete strangers “pending” an investigation.

For example, the Division considers “drug abuse” to be  child abuse based on the “risk” of harm. If a parent acknowledges past drug abuse, even if they are no longer using drugs, they are separated from their children until they can prove they no longer use. In the case of recreational marijuana, this could mean the children are removed from the only home that they’ve ever known for at least thirty (30) days (note: marijuana does not leave your system for at least that long) or sometimes significantly longer because of the gap time between court hearings and the backlog in services used to determine if the parent is no longer using drugs.

Being placed into foster care, even for a short period of time, can be a very traumatic experience for a child.

The law nevertheless requires that there must be a balancing between the right of the family to stay together and the concern for potential harm.

Although well-intended, the Division (by whatever name it is given) weighs the harm of removal against the potential harm discussed in the statute and frequently errs on the side of caution by removing the child from his or her home.

If you or a loved one is struggling to deal with the consequences of a DCPP/DYFS investigation, then please contact the family law lawyers at DeMichele & DeMichele today. We can help you navigate the process, explain your rights and work towards the best result for your children. Contact us now for your confidential initial consultation. You can also reach us by telephone (856) 546-1350

Post Author: Chris Leone-Zwillinger