Child Abuse and Ne glect

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1 Child Abuse and Ne glect A guide for par ents in volved in child abuse or ne glect cases in New Jersey 2015 Le gal Ser vices of New Jer sey Le gal Ser vices of New Jer sey makes this pub li ca tion avail able for use by peo ple who can not af ford le gal ad vice or rep re sen ta tion. It may not be sold or used com mer cially by oth ers. You may copy this pub li ca tion for per sonal or ed u ca tional use only. Cop ies may not be mod i fied and must re tain the in for ma tion iden ti fy ing Le gal Ser vices of New Jer sey and the date the ma te ri als were pro duced. This man ual was last up dated in June 2015, but laws of ten change. Please check our website, for up dates to this man ual or talk to a law yer for up-to-date le gal ad vice. Child Abuse and Ne glect A guide for parents involved in child abuse or neglect cases in New Jersey Written and Published by Legal Services of New Jersey

2 Im por tant Names and Num bers My case docket num ber is: F My law yer is: Phone num ber: The judge in my case is: Hon or able Phone num ber: My DCP&P of fice is: My DCP&P case worker is: Phone num ber: My case worker s su per vi sor is: Phone num ber: My child s law guard ian is: Phone num ber: The dep uty at tor ney gen eral (DAG) law yer for DCP&P is: My child s court ap pointed spe cial ad vo cate (CASA) worker is: Phone num ber: My Child Place ment Re view Board (CPRB) co or di na tor is: Phone num ber:

3 Child Abuse and Ne glect A guide for parents involved in child abuse or neglect cases in New Jersey Written and Published by Legal Services of New Jersey

4 2015 Le gal Ser vices of New Jer sey Le gal Ser vices of New Jer sey makes this pub li ca tion avail able for use by people who can not af ford le gal ad vice or rep re sen ta tion. It may not be sold o r used com mer cially by oth ers. You may copy this pub li ca tion for per sonal or ed u ca tional use only. Cop ies may not be mod i fied and must re tain the information iden ti fy ing Le gal Ser vices of New Jer sey and the date the materials were pro duced. For fur ther in for ma tion, con tact: Le gal Ser vices of New Jer sey, P.O. Box 1357, Ed i son, NJ / pub li ca

5 Preface Le gal Ser vices of New Jer sey (LSNJ) co or di nates the state wide Le gal Ser vices sys tem in New Jer sey, which pro vides free le gal as sis tance to lower-in come peo ple in civil mat ters. Part of Le gal Ser vices mis sion is to make peo ple more aware of their le gal rights and pro vide help ful in for ma tion if they choose to pur sue a le gal case on their own. Aware - ness may al low you to re solve some prob lems on your own, with out the need for a law yer, or to make better use of a law yer if you have one. LSNJ wrote this hand book to help par ents when the Di vi sion of Child Pro tec tion and Per ma nency, DCP&P (for merly the Di vi sion of Youth and Fam ily Ser vices, DYFS), files a court case to place their chil dren in fos ter care, based on claims that the par ents have abused or ne glected their chil dren. The print ing of this hand book was funded through a fed eral grant. Im por tant notes about us ing this hand book This hand book does not give ad vice about a par tic u lar le gal prob lem that you may have, and it is not a sub sti tute for see ing a law yer when you need one. Al ways talk to a law - yer, if you can, be fore tak ing le gal ac tion. The in for ma tion in this hand book is ac cu rate as of June 2015, but laws of ten change. Please check our website, for up dates to this hand book. How to use this hand book Be ing in volved in a child abuse or ne glect case can be con fus ing and stress ful. This hand book will help you un der stand what may hap pen. It will ex plain the court pro cess, the choices you have, and what you can do to im prove your chances of keep ing your fam ily to gether or get ting your fam ily back to gether. Al though ev ery thing in this hand book may not ap ply to your sit u a - tion, read ing the hand book will give you in for ma tion that will help you deal with your sit u a tion. Keep this hand book with you so you can keep track of im por tant in - for ma tion about your case. On the in side front cover, you can write down the names and phone num bers of the peo ple in volved in your case. At the end of the hand book, you will find worksheets to write down the dates of your court hear ings, appointments, and vis its with your child.

6 Getting legal help If the Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCP&P formerly DYFS) has filed a court case against you and your income is low, you may be eligible to have a lawyer appointed to represent you through the Office of Parental Representation (OPR), which is part of the New Jersey Public Defender system. You may also apply to Legal Services of New Jersey s Family Representation Project for assistance. This is explained on pages of this handbook. You may want le gal ad vice about deal ing with DCP&P even if there is no court case against you. If you need the ad vice of a law yer but can - not af ford one, you may be el i gi ble for Le gal Ser vices. Con tact the re - gional Le gal Ser vices pro gram that serves your county. See the in side back cover of this hand book for a list of pro grams. You can also con tact Le gal Ser vices of New Jer sey s state wide, toll-free le gal hot line, LSNJLAW SM, at LSNJ-LAW ( ). Hot line hours are Mon day through Fri day, 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. You may also ap ply on line at The hotline provides information, advice, and re fer rals in civil le gal mat ters to el i gi ble low-in come New Jer - sey res i dents. This ser vice is pro vided at no charge to call ers who are fi nan cially el i gi ble. If you do not qual ify for Le gal Ser vices, the hot line will re fer you to other pos si ble re sources. Acknowledgments Mary M. M c Manus-Smith, LSNJ Chief Coun sel for Fam ily Law, and Jeyanthi Rajaraman, LSNJ Supervising Attorney, made the revisions for this edi tion of the hand book. Con tri bu tors to ear lier ver sions in - cluded for mer LSNJ staff Bebe Shear, Nancy Goldhill, Donna Hildreth, and Di ana Dunker and cur rent LSNJ staff Tricia Simpson-Cur tin and Pa tri cia Myers. Su san Perger, Di rec tor of Pub li - ca tions and Web Com mu ni ca tions at LSNJ, han dled the ed it ing, de - sign, lay out, and pro duc tion. Mel ville D. Miller, Jr., Pres i dent Le gal Ser vices of New Jer sey June 2015

7 Ta ble of Con tents In tro duc tion...1 Child Wel fare Court Pro cess At a Glance (chart)...2 How This Guide Can Help You...3 Sec tion 1: Ba sic In for ma tion About Abuse and Ne glect Cases...8 Over view of the case...8 The def i ni tion of abuse and ne glect....9 How DCP&P starts an abuse or ne glect ac tion...10 How to get a law yer Legal Services Family Representation Project...12 Law yers for DCP&P and your child...13 The role of the judge...13 Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA)...13 This is not a crim i nal case...13 The dan ger of los ing your rights to your child...14 The child abuse reg is try...14 What you say can be used against you...15 Confidentiality...15 Sec tion 2: Work ing With DCP&P to Get Your Child Back..16 Parental Responsibilities (chart) Your DCP&P case worker...16 DCP&P s re spon si bil ity to help fam i lies...17 Vis it ing with your child Find ing rel a tives or friends to take care of your child...21 Sec tion 3: The Court Pro cess...23 Court hear ings and or ders...23 Your preliminary hearing...24 Dis cov ery Me di a tion...26 Your fact-find ing hear ing...26

8 Stip u lat ing to DCP&P s claims in stead of hav ing a hear ing...28 Dispositional hear ing Ap peals...29 Re view hear ings...29 Per ma nency hear ing...30 Possible Court Outcomes (chart)...31 Sec tion 4: Re lated Le gal Mat ters...32 The Child Place ment Re view Board (CPRB)...32 DCP&P ad min is tra tive sub stan ti a tion of abuse or ne glect...33 Child sup port...35 Welfare...36 Sec tion 5: Sug ges tions to Help You Get Your Child Back..37 Get a law yer and work with your law yer Be gin ser vices right away...37 At tend all hear ings and ap point ments...38 At tend all vis its with your child Be have in a calm, po lite way...38 Show that you can pro vide a safe, sta ble home for your child Ad vo cate for your child Stay in volved with your child s ed u ca tional and medical decisions...39 Keep up with ev ery thing that is go ing on...39 Con clu sion...41 Ap pen dix: Worksheets Ser vices and Ap point ments in Your Case Visitation...46 Court Hear ings...49 New Jer sey Le gal Ser vices Pro grams...in side back cover

9 Introduction When children are placed in fos ter care, there are lim its on how much time parents have to get them re turned home. You will need to act quickly to do ev ery thing you can to get your chil d back home. You have the right to get a law yer to rep re sent you in your case and should get one as soon as you get court pa pers from the Di vi sion of Child Pro tec tion and Per - manency (DCP&P for merly DYFS). In most cases, DCP&P is re quired to pro vide ser vices to help you and your fam ily get back to gether. It is im por - tant to get the help that you need right away. Within one year of the time your child goes into place ment, DCP&P must de cide whether your child can be re - turned to you. If DCP&P be lieves that your child can - not go home at that time, it must make a plan for your child to live some place else on a per ma nent ba sis. The court will de cide whether to ap prove DCP&P s plan. In many cases, DCP&P will seek to ter mi nate your pa - ren tal rights through the court so that your child can be adopted. If the court agrees that your child can not be re - turned to you and ap proves DCP&P s plan to file for ter - mi na tion of pa ren tal rights, DCP&P must file an other court case. It must file that case within 15 months of the time your child went into fos ter care. If your pa ren tal rights are ter mi nated and your child is adopted, you and your child can only stay in con tact if the adop tive par - ents per mit it. This hand book will help you un der stand the things you must do to try to re unite with your chil d as soon as possible. 1

10 Child Wel fare Court Pro cess At a Glance 2

11 How This Guide Can Help You How This Guide Can Help You The ques tions and an swers be low high light some of the most im por tant in for ma tion about your abuse or ne - glect case and guide you through the con tents of this handbook. Sec tion 1: Ba sic In for ma tion About Abuse and Ne glect Cases What is an abuse or ne glect case? The Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCP&P) has filed a court case against you be cause it be lieves you have abused or ne glected your child. Usu - ally, DCP&P wants to place or keep your child in fos ter care or an other out-of-home place ment un til it feels the child can re turn home to you safely. DCP&P must dem - on strate to the court that you have abused or ne glected your child. How will the court de cide if I abused or ne glected my child? The court will find that you have abused or ne glected your child if you have se ri ously harmed or cre ated a risk of se ri ous harm to your child. See page 9. How will my case start? DCP&P will start its case against you by fil ing court pa - pers ex plain ing how it be lieves that you have abused or ne glected your child. These pa pers are called an Or der to Show Cause and a Com plaint. See page 10. 3

12 How This Guide Can Help You How can I get a law yer? You have the right to a law yer and should get one as quickly as pos si ble. If your in come is low, you may qual ify to have a law yer ap pointed to rep re sent you. See page 10. Who else will be in volved in the case? Your child will also have a law yer, called a law guard ian. A dep uty at tor ney gen eral (DAG) will rep re sent DCP&P. A court ap pointed spe cial ad vo cate (CASA) worker may be ap pointed to ad vo cate for your child s needs. See page 13. Sec tion 2: Work ing With DCP&P to Get Your Child Back Will some one from DCP&P be in volved in my case? You will have a DCP&P case worker as signed to your case. See page 16. Will I get help from DCP&P? In most cases, DCP&P must pro vide ser vices that will help you get your child re turned home. Some of the ser - vices DCP&P can pro vide or re fer you to are ther apy, day care, home health aides, parenting ed u ca tion, sub stance abuse treat ment, and emer gency shel ter or hous ing. See page 17. How will I see my child when my child is in fos ter care? In most cases, DCP&P must ar range a sched ule for vis - its be tween you and your child while he or she is in fos ter care. It is very im por tant to visit with your child. See page 20. 4

13 How This Guide Can Help You Can my child live with rel a tives or friends? If your child is go ing to be re moved from you, let DCP&P know right away if you have rel a tives or friends who could care for your child. See page 21. Sec tion 3: The Court Pro cess What will hap pen in court af ter DCP&P files a case against me? There will be a se ries of court hear ings: Preliminary hearing. This is the first hear ing, and the judge will de cide whether or not DCP&P has shown good rea sons to con tinue its case and whether or not your child should be in place ment while your case is going on. See page 24. Fact-finding hearing. At this hear ing, DCP&P will try to prove to the judge that you have abused or ne glected your child. You have the right to pres ent your view of the sit u a tion and de fend against what DCP&P says. See page 26. Dispositional hear ing. If the judge finds that you abused or ne glected your child, the judge must hold a dispositional hear ing to de cide what should hap pen next. The judge will de cide whether your child can come home, whether you need to con tinue get ting ser - vices, and other is sues. See page 28. Re view hear ing. Af ter your dispositional hear ing, the judge will gen er ally sched ule your case for one or more re view hear ings to check on how you and your child are do ing. See page 29. 5

14 How This Guide Can Help You Permanency hearing. Within 12 months of the time your child en ters fos ter care or an other out-of-home place ment, the judge will hold a per ma nency hear ing. At the per ma nency hear ing, DCP&P will pres ent a plan for a per ma nent liv ing sit u a tion for your child, and the judge will de cide whether or not to ap prove that plan. See page 30. Mediation. Some coun ties have neu tral me di a tors who can meet with ev ery one in volved to try to re solve some or all of the is sues in the case. See page 26. Sec tion 4: Re lated Le gal Mat ters What is the Child Place ment Re view Board (CPRB)? The Child Place ment Re view Board (CPRB) is a group of vol un teers who re view cases of chil dren in fos ter care and make rec om men da tions to the judge. The CPRB in your county should re view your case within 45 days of your child s re moval. See page 32. What if DCP&P no ti fies me that it has sub stan ti - ated abuse or neglect? In ad di tion to bring ing this court case against you, DCP&P may make its own find ing that you abused or ne glected your child. If DCP&P sends you a no tice that it has sub stan ti ated abuse or ne glect, you may want to appeal that decision. See page 33. Can DCP&P col lect child sup port from me? If your child is in fos ter care, your county wel fare agency may file for a child sup port or der against you to col lect money for sup port ing your child. See page 35. 6

15 How This Guide Can Help You What if I re ceive wel fare ben e fits? If you were re ceiv ing wel fare be fore your child was re - moved, you will lose your ben e fits. Or, if you still have a child at home, your ben e fits will be low ered. See page 36. Sec tion 5: Sug ges tions to Help You Get Your Child Back Get a law yer right away and work with your law yer. Try to get ser vices that you think will help you and start them right away. At tend all hear ings and ap point ments in your case so that DCP&P and the court know that you are se ri ous about get ting your child back. Visit with your child as much as pos si ble. Do ev ery thing you can to show that you can pro - vide a safe, sta ble home for your child. In volve fam ily mem bers and friends to help you do what is needed to have your child re turned to you. Make sure your child s needs are be ing met and ad vo cate for your child if you think your child needs ser vices or other help. See page 37. 7

16 Ba sic In for ma tion About Abuse and Ne glect Cases Section 1: Basic Information About Abuse and Neglect Cases Over view of the case DCP&P files an abuse or ne glect case when it be lieves you have abused or ne glected your child. Usu ally, DCP&P wants to place or keep your child in fos ter care or an other out-of-home place ment. In some sit u a tions, DCP&P does not want to re move your child, but wants the judge to al low DCP&P to check on you and your child and to or der you to par tic i pate in ser vices DCP&P be lieves you need. At the be gin ning of the case, the judge must de cide whether DCP&P has shown ad e quate rea sons to con - tinue its case. Even tu ally, the judge must de cide whether you have abused or ne glected your child. You have a right to a hear ing where all of the par ties will be able to pres ent their cases to the judge. In some in stances, you may de - cide to stip u late to or ad mit to some of DCP&P s claims in stead of chal leng ing them. In that case, the court will find that you abused or ne glected your child with out a hearing. If the judge finds that you did not abuse or ne glect your child, your child will re turn home. If the judge finds that you did abuse or ne glect your child, the judge must de cide what should hap pen next. Gen er - ally, you will be re quired to par tic i pate in ser vices to help you cor rect the prob lems that DCP&P be lieves pre vent you from tak ing care of your child. Your child will stay in fos ter care un til the judge de cides your 8

17 Ba sic In for ma tion About Abuse and Ne glect Cases child can re turn home safely. If your child is at home, the judge may still or der you to par tic i pate in ser vices. The def i ni tion of abuse and ne glect The law says that a child has been abused or ne glected if his or her par ent, guard ian, or care taker has done any of the fol low ing things: Caused very se ri ous phys i cal or emo tional harm to the child or al lowed some one else to harm the child; Cre ated a risk that the child will be phys i cally harmed, or al lowed some one else to cre ate a risk of harm to the child; Sex u ally abused the child or al lowed some one else to sex u ally abuse the child; Harmed or cre ated a risk of harm to the child by fail ing to take proper care of him or her; Used excessive physical punishment on the child; or Aban doned the child. A judge s de ci sion about whether a par ent abused or ne glected his or her child de pends on the spe cific facts of each individual situation. Findings of child abuse and ne glect are some times based on phys i cal in ju ries to a child, but they can also be based on se vere emo tional harm. Even if you have not harmed your child, a judge might find that you have abused or ne glected your child be cause the child may be at risk of se ri ous harm in your care. Judges can de cide that drug or al co hol abuse by a par - ent constitutes ne glect if the par ent can not pro vide 9

18 Ba sic In for ma tion About Abuse and Ne glect Cases proper care for the child. Judges have found child ne - glect when par ents have failed to pro tect a child from some one they should have known would harm the child. Leav ing chil dren alone can also be con sid ered child neglect. How DCP&P starts an abuse or ne glect ac tion DCP&P will be gin the child abuse or ne glect case against you by fil ing court pa pers called an Or der to Show Cause and a Com plaint. You should ap pear at the fil ing of the Or der to Show Cause and Com plaint. If you do not ap pear, DCP&P will pro vide you with a copy of the court pa pers. An Or der to Show Cause is a spe cial court or der that tells you to ap pear in court on a spe cific date for the judge to con sider your case. In the Com plaint, DCP&P ex plains how it be lieves that you have abused or ne glected your child. DCP&P must also show why it needs to re move your child from your home. Or, if DCP&P only wants to check on your fam ily, it must show why that is nec es sary. In many sit u a tions, when DCP&P files the case, it has al ready re moved the child on an emer gency ba sis and DCP&P is ask ing the judge to keep the child in fos ter care. How to get a law yer It is very im por tant that you get a law yer as soon as pos si ble. If you can af ford to hire a law yer, you should do so immediately. Your county bar association s law - yer re fer ral ser vice can sug gest names of law yers who can help you. If you can not af ford to hire a law yer, you may qual ify for a law yer to rep re sent you through the Of fice of Pa - ren tal Rep re sen ta tion (OPR), which is part of the New Jer sey Pub lic De fender sys tem. DCP&P is re quired to pro vide you with con tact in for ma tion for the OPR 10

19 Ba sic In for ma tion About Abuse and Ne glect Cases office han dling mat ters in the county in which you live. You will find this in for ma tion in the pa pers pro vided to you when a Com plaint is filed. You should try to contact the listed OPR of fice be fore the date you are given for the first court hear ing. DCP&P is also re - quired to pro vide no tice of your case to the OPR for any ini tial court hear ing if a child has been re moved from your cus tody. This ini tial hear ing is usu ally called an Ap pli ca tion for an Or der to Show Cause or, some - times, a DODD hear ing. OPR has a pro gram called Or - der to Show Cause Attorney Representation (OSCAR) to try to en sure that a par ent has a law yer in court for this first hear ing in a case. As part of the OS CAR pro gram, the OPR law yer will rep re sent you pro vi sion ally, which means prior to the time you ac tu ally ap ply for an OPR law yer and be fore the court de ter mines that your in come qual i fies you for rep re sen ta tion by the OPR. If DCP&P did not pro vide OPR with no tice of your case or you did not con tact OPR di rectly prior to the sched uled hear ing, you will be able to ap ply for an OPR law yer at your first court hear ing by ask ing the judge for a law yer. But re mem - ber, if you re quest a law yer from OPR as soon as you find out about the case, you may be able to have a law - yer with you at your first court hear ing. To get a law yer as quickly as pos si ble, go to Chil dren in Court Ser vices or the fam ily in take or fam ily re cep tion of fice at the court house where your case has been filed as soon as you know that DCP&P has filed an ac tion against you. Tell a court em ployee that you would like a law yer to rep re sent you in your case. Take a copy of any court pa pers you have and proof of your in come. You will have to pro vide in for ma tion about your in come and any prop erty you own. The court, not OPR, is re spon si - 11

20 Ba sic In for ma tion About Abuse and Ne glect Cases ble for determining whether you qual ify for an OPR law yer based on your in come. Ask to be no ti fied as soon as your law yer is ap pointed. Give a tele phone num ber and an address where you can be reached. If a week goes by and you do not hear any thing, call the OPR head quar ters in Tren ton at or Chil dren in Court Ser vices in the courthouse. Af ter your case is over, the New Jer sey Pub lic De - fender s Of fice will send you a bill for the law yer s le - gal ser vices. The bill will in clude any other ex penses, such as ex pert wit ness fees, that the OPR pays in de - fend ing you. The cost of these ser vices will be come a lien for a pe riod of 10 years on any prop erty you own or may own in the fu ture (such as a home, a bank ac - count, or a car). You have the right to chal lenge the amount of the lien or your abil ity to pay. Even if you can not pay, you will still re ceive le gal ser vices. Each par ent needs a sep a rate law yer to rep re sent him or her in the abuse or ne glect case. Sep a rate law yers are nec es sary be cause you and the other par ent(s) in volved may dis agree or take po si tions against each other during the case. Legal Services Family Representation Project You may also be able to get help from Le gal Ser vices of New Jer sey (LSNJ). LSNJ has a state wide pro ject called the Family Representation Project, through which Le gal Ser vices law yers who are spe cial ists in child wel fare law pro vide ad vice to low-in come par ents in mat ters in volv ing DCP&P. Al though its re sources are limited, in some instances the Family Representation Pro ject pro vides rep re sen ta tion in child abuse or ne - glect cases. If you would like to ap ply for as sis tance, call LSNJ-LAW SM, LSNJ s state wide, toll-free le gal 12

21 Ba sic In for ma tion About Abuse and Ne glect Cases hotline, at LSNJ-LAW ( ) or ap ply online at Law yers for DCP&P and your child A law yer called a dep uty at tor ney gen eral, or DAG, will rep re sent DCP&P. Your child will be rep re sented by a law yer called a law guard ian. The role of the judge Judges have two important responsibilities in abuse or ne glect cases. They must pro tect chil dren from be ing harmed by their par ents, and they must pro tect the rights of par ents and chil dren to be to gether if the chil - dren can stay safely at home. By de cid ing what has hap pened in your case and ap ply ing New Jer sey law to those facts, the judge will de cide whether you abused or neglected your child. Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) A court ap pointed spe cial ad vo cate (CASA) worker may be as signed to your case. The CASA worker will get to know your child and gather in for ma tion about him or her for the judge. This is not a crim i nal case An abuse or ne glect case is not a crim i nal case. It is a civil ac tion. You can not be in car cer ated (put in jail) or sub - jected to any other crim i nal pen alty if you lose this case. Be aware that, in some in stances, the pros e cu tor s of fice may file a sep a rate crim i nal case against you based upon the same sit u a tion. If a crim i nal case is filed against you, or if the pros e cu tor s of fice is in ves ti gat ing you, make sure that your law yer in your civil case knows about the crim i nal case. If you have a law yer in 13

22 Ba sic In for ma tion About Abuse and Ne glect Cases the crim i nal case, make sure that law yer knows about this civil case. Things that hap pen in crim i nal and civil child abuse cases can af fect each other. For ex am ple, ad mit ting that you harmed your child in your civil case can af fect your crim i nal case. And plead ing guilty to abus ing a child in the crim i nal case can af fect the civil case. The dan ger of los ing your rights to your child The judge can not ter mi nate your pa ren tal rights in an abuse and ne glect case. How ever, if DCP&P re moves your child, there may be se ri ous con se quences. DCP&P is re quired to file a court case to ter mi nate your pa ren - tal rights for ever if your child is in fos ter care for 15 months, un less one of the fol low ing ex cep tions ap plies: Your child is liv ing with a rel a tive who can care for your child per ma nently; DCP&P shows that ter mi na tion of pa ren tal rights is not in your child s best in ter est; or DCP&P has not given you the help that it was sup - posed to pro vide. In some cases, DCP&P may file a case to ter mi nate your pa ren tal rights even sooner than 15 months. You must be gin im me di ately to do what ever you need to do to get your child back home. The child abuse reg is try If the judge con cludes that you abused or ne glected your child, your name will be per ma nently placed on the New Jer sey Child Abuse Reg is try (some times called the cen tral reg is try). Even if your child is returned to you, your name will re main on the reg is try. Be ing on this reg is try will pre vent you from get ting or keep ing 14

23 Ba sic In for ma tion About Abuse and Ne glect Cases cer tain jobs work ing with chil dren and with dis abled or el derly adults. It may also pre vent you or oth ers in your house hold from be com ing fos ter or adop tive par - ents or car ing for rel a tive chil dren. Also, DCP&P is re - quired to dis close the names of the peo ple on the reg is try to po lice and cer tain other agen cies. As de scribed in Sec tion 4, your name will be placed on the New Jer sey Child Abuse Reg is try when DCP&P concludes its investigation with a substantiation find - ing. This means that DCP&P de ter mined that you abused or ne glected your child. If DCP&P finds abuse or ne glect against you but does not bring a court case, you must use the administrative procedure described in Sec tion 4 to have your name re moved from the registry. What you say can be used against you Things you say to DCP&P work ers, CASA vol un teers, the law guard ian, the law guard ian s in ves ti ga tor, psy - chol o gists, and oth ers can be used against you in this abuse or ne glect case. They can also be used in any fu - ture cases against you. Confidentiality Your law yer can not dis close things that you tell him or her in con fi dence when no one else is pres ent. The only ex cep tion is if your law yer is pre vent ing a crime or re - port ing child abuse. For ex am ple, if your law yer knows that you are go ing to com mit a crime, the law yer is re - quired to re port that to the po lice. In ad di tion, in for ma - tion pro vided at court hear ings and in DCP&P s files can not be dis closed to the gen eral pub lic. 15

24 Work ing With DCP&P to Get Your Child Back Section 2: Working With DCP&P to Get Your Child Back Parental Responsibilities Your DCP&P case worker A DCP&P worker has been as signed to your case. Make sure that you write the names and tele phone num bers of that worker and his or her su per vi sor on the form on the in side front cover of this hand book. If your worker or the su per vi sor changes, make sure to change the name and tele phone num ber in this hand book. Work ers are of ten out of the DCP&P of fice, away from their desks, or al ready on the tele phone when par ents call. When ever you call your worker, leave a voice mail mes sage if the worker is un avail able to speak with you. If you need to speak to some one right away, ask to 16

25 Work ing With DCP&P to Get Your Child Back speak to the worker s su per vi sor. If the su per vi sor is not avail able, ask to speak to the cov er ing worker. Be sure to note the name of the per son you speak with. Al ways keep a re cord of the date and time of the calls you make to your worker or his or her su per vi sor, so that you can be spe cific about your at tempts to talk to DCP&P. If you can not reach your worker or the su per - vi sor, or if you want to make sure that cer tain in for ma - tion gets into the DCP&P re cord in your case, con tact your at tor ney and pro vide him or her with that in for - ma tion. You and/or your at tor ney can send a let ter or a fax to the worker and keep a copy of it. Let ters and faxes sent to DCP&P are proof that you at tempted to con tact your worker and proof that DCP&P was given what ever in for ma tion you put in your let ter. DCP&P s responsibility to help families In most cases, DCP&P is re quired to help keep fam i lies to gether. DCP&P must make rea son able ef forts to help fam i lies so that fos ter care place ment is not nec es sary. It must also help you re unite with your child if your child has been re moved. DCP&P is sup posed to work with you and pro vide you with ser vices to solve the prob lems that it says pre vent you from car ing for your child. At a min i mum, DCP&P is re quired to: Work with you to de velop a case plan; Pro vide you with a copy of all plans and re leases and ev ery up dated care or safety plan; Pro vide you with ser vices that you and DCP&P agree will help keep your fam ily to gether or bring your fam ily back to gether; Keep you in formed about your child s prog ress, development, and health; and 17

26 Work ing With DCP&P to Get Your Child Back Ar range for you to visit your child. In cer tain cases, DCP&P may ask the judge to rule that it does not have to make rea son able ef forts to help you. The judge can only ex cuse DCP&P from help ing you if a court has ter mi nated your rights to an other one of your chil dren, or you have caused very se ri ous harm to a child. Some of the ser vices DCP&P can pro vide to you are ther apy, day care, home health aides, and parenting ed - u ca tion. DCP&P can re fer par ents for sub stance abuse treat ment and other ser vices. DCP&P may also be able to help you if you need hous ing to keep your fam ily to - gether or to re unify. DCP&P cur rently has a small emer gency fund that can pro vide a lim ited amount of money for rent or a se cu rity de posit. If hous ing is your only un re solved prob lem and you are re ceiv ing wel - fare, or would qual ify for wel fare if your child were re - turned to you, DCP&P may be able to help you get emer gency hous ing as sis tance through your county wel fare agency. You should ask DCP&P for any ser vices that you think will help you. If DCP&P re fuses to pro vide ser vices that you be lieve you or your child need, ask the judge to or der DCP&P to pro vide them. You can also ap peal a de ci sion by DCP&P not to pro vide you with ser vices you have re quested. To start an ad min is tra tive ap peal, tell your case worker or write to DCP&P stat ing that you wish to ap peal the de nial of ser vices. If you are not able to get ther apy, sub stance abuse treat ment, or other ser vices you need through DCP&P, try to get them on your own. You need to know what DCP&P ex pects you to do. Meet with DCP&P as soon as pos si ble to de velop your 18

27 Work ing With DCP&P to Get Your Child Back writ ten case plan. The case plan will state what you must do to re unify with your child and what DCP&P must do to help you. You may want to talk to your lawyer be fore you sign the case plan. Get a copy of the case plan. DCP&P may re quest that you un dergo a psy cho log i cal, sub stance abuse, or other eval u a tion, or the judge may or der you to get eval u ated. You must at tend all eval u a - tions you are or dered to at tend. If you have ques tions about cooperating with evaluations or other things you are re quired to do, dis cuss them with your law yer right away. You should be gin ser vices as soon as pos si ble. If you have a sub stance abuse prob lem, you need to en ter treatment immediately, attend regularly, and complete the treat ment pro gram. Try ing to solve a sub stance abuse prob lem with out a treat ment pro gram usu ally will not be ac cept able to DCP&P or to the judge. DCP&P may ask you to at tend a Fam ily Team Meet ing. The Fam ily Team Meet ing's pur pose is to de velop a plan with you, in clud ing: a re view of ef forts and ser - vices to pre vent the need for place ment; a re view of ar - eas of con cern; iden ti fy ing the fam ily's strengths and needs; iden ti fy ing rel a tive, kin, and fam ily friend re - sources for place ment and other types of sup port; and de vel op ing a vis i ta tion plan. You can also ask for a Fam ily Team Meet ing at any time dur ing your case. You can also bring any one with you who will help and sup port you such as in ter ested fam ily mem bers, friends, ther a pists, and law yers. All those in vited should participate in the decision-making process involving what services and supports are needed. 19

28 Work ing With DCP&P to Get Your Child Back Vis it ing with your child In most cases, DCP&P must ar range a sched ule for vis - its be tween you and your child while he or she is in fos ter care. It is very im por tant to visit with your child. Vis its are your op por tu nity to keep a close re la tion ship with your child. Ask DCP&P right away to ar range for you to visit with your child. Of ten, DCP&P will only of fer you su per vised vis its with your child at the DCP&P of fice for one hour ev ery other week. You should work with your at tor ney to ask the court for more fre quent and lon ger vis its. Vis its with your child should be un su per vised, un less DCP&P asked the court for su per vised vis its and ex plained the rea sons su per vi sion is nec es sary. You can sug gest that vis its be ar ranged out side of the DCP&P of fice for ex am ple, in parks, at res tau rants, at your home, or at the home of a responsible relative or friend. If your vis its must be su per vised, you or your law yer may sug gest that a rel a tive or friend be the su per vi sor. If you need trans por ta tion to visit with your child, ask for it. Also, ask if you may have tele phone con tact with your child and if you may send your child let ters and gifts by mail. If DCP&P does not agree with your vis i - ta tion re quests, you or your law yer can ask the judge and try to get the judge to or der better vis i ta tion than DCP&P is of fer ing. Make the most of your vis its with your child. Bring snacks, games, toys, and books with you to make the vis its more en joy able for your child. Bring fam ily pic - tures to help you talk about your fam ily, main tain your child s fam ily iden tity, and help your child re mem ber good times you have had to gether. Fo cus your en tire at ten tion on your child through out the visit. Be warm and af fec tion ate, but do not force your child to re spond 20

29 Work ing With DCP&P to Get Your Child Back if he or she re sists. Al ways try to un der stand and meet your child s needs. Do not dis cuss this case with your child or prom ise your child that he or she will be com - ing home soon, as that may be upsetting to your child. Ex hibit good tech niques of dis ci pline at vis its. If your child be comes up set or mis be haves, try to re di rect him or her to happy, ap pro pri ate activities. Find ing rel a tives or friends to take care of your child One of the first things you need to think about is whether you have rel a tives or friends who could care for your child. This in cludes the child s other par ent and his or her rel a tives. You should try to find some one who has a pos i tive re la tion ship with your child. If you have rel a - tives or friends who live in an other state, DCP&P can ask that state to eval u ate them. Give DCP&P their names, ad dresses, and tele phone num bers. Ask those rel a tives or friends to call DCP&P them selves to re quest that your child be placed with them. Be fore plac ing your child with a friend or rel a tive, DCP&P will check to see if they have crim i nal re cords or DCP&P re cords. With some ex cep tions, DCP&P will re ject friends or rel a tives if they have crim i nal re cords or if DCP&P finds that they abused or ne glected a child. DCP&P will also visit their home to be sure that they have enough room and a safe place for your child to live. If DCP&P does not agree to a place ment you sug gest, you or your law yer can ask the judge to or der that place ment. Friends or rel a tives who take care of your child may be el i gi ble for fi nan cial help for the child through sev eral dif fer ent pro grams. They can ap ply to DCP&P to be - come fos ter par ents and re ceive reg u lar monthly pay - 21

30 Work ing With DCP&P to Get Your Child Back ments for your child. The Kin ship Nav i ga tor Pro gram can also pro vide in for ma tion about other ben e fits avail - able to cer tain rel a tives and friends. Their toll-free num ber is In ad di tion, DCP&P may be able to pro vide funds for cloth ing, bed room fur ni ture, or other things your friends or rel a tives need to be able to take care of your child. DCP&P can also pro vide Medicaid for your child while he or she is in the care of your friends or rel a tives. Cer tain rel a tives who are not re ceiv ing monthly pay - ments for the child from DCP&P can ap ply to their county wel fare agency for ben e fits for the child. The wel fare agency can also help rel a tives and other care - tak ers ap ply for med i cal cov er age for your child through NJ FamilyCare. 22

31 The Court Pro cess Section 3: The Court Process Court hear ings and or ders Hear ings in your abuse or ne glect case will take place in court, and a judge will make de ci sions and is sue court or ders about what must be done. For ex am ple, the court may or der you to get a psy cho log i cal eval u a - tion or or der DCP&P to pro vide coun sel ing for you. Both you and DCP&P must fol low the court or ders. If you do not ap pear in court when or dered to be there, or if you fail to com ply with an or der of the court, you could be held in con tempt of court. You could then face a penalty, including the possibility of being arrested. Also, if you do not ap pear in court, the court may en ter a de fault against you. This means that you will not be per mit ted to pres ent your side of the case to the judge. If a de fault is en tered against you, ask your law yer about what you can do. Gen er ally, if you have a good rea son for not ap pear ing, the judge will agree to set aside the de fault. (See Child Wel fare Court Pro cess At a Glance on page 2.) At court hear ings, you have the op por tu nity to tell your side of the story, de fend your self, as sert your rights, and ask the judge to or der things that you want. You will need a law yer as soon as pos si ble to help you do these things. DCP&P can rec om mend to the judge that your child be re moved from you. It can make rec om men da - tions about where your child should be placed if he or she is re moved from you, when you should visit your child, and what you need to do to get your child back. Your child s law guard ian can ei ther agree with DCP&P or make dif fer ent rec om men da tions. You have the right 23

32 The Court Pro cess to ob ject to these rec om men da tions and to tell the judge what you think should hap pen. If you do not speak Eng lish, ask in ad vance for a court in ter preter to be pres ent for each court hear ing. Your child s fos ter par ents or other care tak ers have the right to come to court hear ings. How ever, they are not par ties in abuse or ne glect cases and their par tic i pa tion at hear ings is lim ited to giv ing the court in for ma tion re lated to the case. Your preliminary hearing You are en ti tled to a brief first hear ing, which is called a preliminary hearing. The preliminary hearing will hap pen ei ther when DCP&P files its case against you or soon af ter the case has been filed. At the pre lim i nary hear ing, the judge will de cide whether or not DCP&P has stated ad e quate rea sons to con tinue its case against you. If DCP&P has re moved or seeks to re move your child, the judge must de cide whether or not your child should be in place ment while your case is go ing on. When DCP&P filed this case, you should have re ceived an Or der to Show Cause tell ing you to come to court on a spe cific date. (See page 10.) Many par ents have their pre lim i nary hear ing on that date. If DCP&P re - moved your child on an emer gency ba sis, with out go - ing to court first, DCP&P must file a Com plaint within 72 busi ness hours of your child s re moval. If you go to court then, you can have a pre lim i nary hear ing at that time. If you were not pres ent when the judge signed DCP&P s Or der to Show Cause to re move your child, you can re quest a hear ing and have one within three days of your re quest. If you do not have a law yer at your pre lim i nary hear ing, you can ask the judge to post pone your hear ing so that you can get one. 24

33 The Court Pro cess At the hear ing, the law yer rep re sent ing DCP&P will try to con vince the judge that your child should be re - moved from you. Your law yer can ask the judge to let your child stay with you or re turn your child im me di - ately, if that is what you want. Your child s law guard - ian may also par tic i pate in the hear ing. Some times, you may be able to con vince the judge to al low your child to stay with you while your case is go - ing through the court pro cess. You can dis cuss with your law yer and your DCP&P worker the pos si bil ity of ar rang ing for su per vi sion or ser vices that might al low you to keep your child at home. Per haps a rel a tive could live with you to su per vise your con tact with your child. Or DCP&P might con sent to your child stay ing with you if you have a home health aide or in ten sive in-home coun sel ing. If DCP&P or the law guard ian sug gests other ar range ments that they think would make your child safe in your care, you should try to go along with their plan, if pos si ble. If you need sub stance abuse treat ment, there are a few small res i den tial treat ment pro grams where a par ent and child can stay to gether. Ask if one is avail able. Or ask DCP&P to let you en ter an out pa tient sub stance abuse treat ment pro gram while con tin u ing to care for your child. If your child has been re moved be cause some one else in your home harmed your child, ask if your child may stay with you if you and your child have no fur ther con tact with that per son. Dis cov ery Af ter your first ap pear ance in court, there will be a dis - cov ery pe riod. The dis cov ery pe riod al lows all sides to gather in for ma tion about the case and get in for ma tion from each other. Your DCP&P worker will con tinue to 25

34 The Court Pro cess in ves ti gate and eval u ate you, your home, and the facts in your case. Your DCP&P worker and the law guard - ian or in ves ti ga tor will also visit your child to see how he or she is do ing. Your law yer is en ti tled to look at the DCP&P file on you and your fam ily. If you qual ify for help from the Of fice of the Pub lic De - fender s Parental Representation Unit, your lawyer can ap ply for money to pay for any psy cho log i cal or other ex pert eval u a tions you need in this case. Al though your law yer is not al lowed to have con tact with your child, he or she may re quest an evaluation of your child. Me di a tion Some coun ties have me di a tion pro grams, which give par ents, DCP&P case work ers, law yers, and other in ter - ested peo ple an op por tu nity to meet and try to reach so lu tions in abuse or ne glect cases. A neu tral me di a tor, who is a spe cially trained court em ployee, co or di nates the ses sions. Some times me di a tion may help the par - ties agree on some or all of the is sues in their case. Your fact-find ing hear ing Af ter dis cov ery is com pleted, the judge will have to de - cide whether or not you abused or ne glected your child. You have the right to a fact-find ing hear ing. At this hear ing, DCP&P will try to prove that its claims against you are true. You and your law yer have the right to pres ent your view of the sit u a tion and de fend against what DCP&P says. DCP&P s law yer will pres ent doc u ments (pa pers) and wit nesses to prove that the things it said about you in its Com plaint are true. Your law yer and the law guard ian 26

35 The Court Pro cess will have an op por tu nity to ar gue, where ap pro pri ate, that DCP&P s doc u ments should not be part of the case. Your law yer and the law guard ian will also be able to chal lenge what DCP&P s wit nesses say by cross-ex am in - ing them. Then your law yer will be able to pres ent doc u ments and wit nesses on your be half. DCP&P and the law guard ian will have an op por tu nity to ob ject to what you pre sented and cross-ex am ine your wit nesses. The law guard ian will also have an op por tu nity to pres ent doc u ments and wit nesses, and DCP&P s law yer and your law yer will have a chance to ob ject and cross-ex am ine. Pre par ing for your fact-find ing hear ing with your law - yer is very im por tant. You must be sure your law yer knows all important information about DCP&P s claims about you. Let your law yer know about any other re lated facts or wit nesses you think would help ex plain your side of the story. You and your law yer should de cide whether you will tes tify at your hear ing. The judge will con sider all of the ev i dence and le gal ar - gu ments made at the hear ing and de cide whether you have abused or ne glected your child. The judge must ex plain his or her de ci sion in an oral or writ ten opin - ion. If the judge de cides that you did not abuse or ne - glect your child, your child will be re turned to you, and your case will be closed. If the judge de cides that you did abuse or ne glect your child, the court will hold an - other hear ing, called a dispositional hear ing, to de cide what should hap pen next. See Dispositional hear ing on page

36 The Court Pro cess Stip u lat ing to DCP&P s claims in stead of hav ing a hear ing Be fore your hear ing, your law yer may dis cuss with you whether or not you want to stip u late to (agree with) some or all of DCP&P s claims about you. If you stip u - late to any of DCP&P s claims, you agree that you will not ar gue that they are un true. You also give up your right to a fact-find ing hear ing in this case. In stead, the judge will rely on your stip u la tion and make a find ing that you abused or ne glected your child. You can not ap peal your stip u la tion to child abuse or ne glect once it is ac cepted by the court. De cid ing whether to stip u late to claims against you is a very im por tant de ci sion. You should dis cuss it care - fully with your law yer. If you stip u late that you have abused or ne glected your child, DCP&P can keep your child in fos ter care un til the judge de cides that it is safe for your child to live with you. The judge can also or - der you to par tic i pate in ser vices. Also, if you stip u late, DCP&P will place your name on the Child Abuse Reg - is try. See DCP&P ad min is tra tive sub stan ti a tion of abuse or ne glect on page 33. If there are state ments in DCP&P s Com plaint that are not true, you have a right to make DCP&P pres ent ev i - dence to prove that the claims are true, in stead of sign - ing a stipulation. Be fore you agree to stip u late, you or your law yer should dis cuss with DCP&P the spe cific facts to which you will stip u late. You should also find out what DCP&P wants you to do to get your child back if you stip u late. Dispositional hear ing If the judge finds that you abused or ne glected your child, ei ther af ter a hear ing or a stip u la tion, the judge 28

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