Regardless of their reason for doing so, any circumstances that lead to the New Jersey Department of Child Protection and Permanency (DCPP) opening an investigation into you and your family could end up have life-altering consequences. If the DCPP finds evidence that they believe substantiates accusations of child neglect or abuse, the agency may take steps to separate you from your children and potentially even take away custody and parental rights.

DCPP investigations in Hackensack generally proceed quickly after the Department becomes aware of a possibly dangerous situation, so seeking legal counsel quickly can be crucial to preserving your rights and best interests. By working with an experienced DCPP attorney, you could give yourself a much better chance of getting through this sensitive and often invasive experience without long-term repercussions.

What Could Lead to a DCPP Investigation?

The DCPP does not undertake inspections of private homes or investigations into residents of Hackensack of its own volition. Instead, the agency only acts based on what they interpret as credible reports that a minor child does not have any of the following:

  • Adequate access to basic necessities like food and shelter
  • Experienced substantial medical neglect
  • Experienced environmental neglect or has
  • Sustained a serious or fatal injury due to abuse or neglect by their parent(s) or guardian(s)

Individuals who make these reports have a legal right to confidentiality, and they generally cannot be held liable in any legal context for the outcome of DCPP actions stemming from their report. Importantly, state law also requires people who witness child abuse and/or neglect to report that mistreatment to DCPP or another appropriate authority, and a failure to do so could lead to disorderly person charges being pursued against them.

How the Investigation Process Works

Upon receiving a credible report of child abuse or neglect, the DCPP is legally required to send an investigator within 24 hours to the home where the alleged mistreatment took place. This first investigation generally entails interviews with the parents or guardians, as well as multiple unannounced inspections of the property.

DCPP officials may make one of four designations regarding the complaint they received: unfounded, not established, established, or substantiated. A designation of “unfounded” means the agency found no evidence of the abuse or neglect that the reporting party claimed to have witnessed. A “not established” designation means the investigation turned up some evidence that a child was harmed or placed at risk of harm, but most evidence indicated the child was not severely hurt or killed through that mistreatment. An “established” designation means the DCPP found non-absolute evidence of serious abuse or neglect.

Finally, a “substantiated” designation following a DCPP investigation in Hackensack indicates abusive or neglectful conditions in the investigated home. This designation could allow DCPP to take more extreme action upon opening a case into the implicated parents or guardians.

An Attorney Can Enforce Your Legal Rights During a DCPP Investigation in Hackensack

While the knowledge that DCPP is investigating you for suspected child abuse or neglect can be understandably frightening, these investigations do not always result in further legal proceedings. You also have various rights during every stage of this process, which a hardworking attorney could help you understand and effectively enforce.

Make contacting legal counsel a priority immediately after the start of a DCPP investigation in Hackensack. We are standing by to assist you.