the agency formerly known as DYFS
The Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS) or Department of Children Protection and Permanency (DCPP) in New Jersey intervenes in family issues involving allegations of child neglect and child abuse. under unique circumstances, the DCPP may petition parents to participate in counseling, parenting classes, and substance abuse treatment and children can even be placed into foster care.
The DCPP is typically called upon to intervene based upon information given by a “reporter”.
A reporter is someone like a teacher, school nurse, hospital employee, or other person owing the state of New Jersey a duty to report. People involved in certain professions, as those described herein, are referred to as mandatory reporters. These professionals have no choice in the matter and are required to report signs of child abuse and child neglect to DCPP. Regardless of the reporter’s intentions in these matters, the simple allegation of child abuse or neglect triggers devastating consequences for each family involved.
Quite often, anonymous reports of abuse and neglect are made by former spouses or close relatives. The motivation and reasons for making these anonymous reports vary from jealous, malicious revenge and resentful retaliation. anonymous reports may be motivated by failed marriages and/or infidelity between spouses. irrespective of the motivation for filing false and anonymous reports of abuse and neglect towards a child, the DCPP still has a legal duty and obligation to investigate.
If you are the accused, you may feel all alone and desperately need someone to help you defend your innocence. It is best to have legal counsel in these situations. Unfortunately, if the allegations involve conduct involving criminal liability you may also be arrested and charged with serious felony charges. Many felony charges involve the potential for mandatory state incarceration. This means that if you are found guilty of the felony charges, you may go to prison for many years.
For more information about New Jersey's division of child protection and permanency, please visit their website:
Please take the time to read the answers (below) to the questions clients ask most often. Note: We use DYFS because DCPP has not really caught on.
what triggers a DYFS case? how does it all begin?
Someone, usually a family member, will notify DYFS that they believe your child is being abused or negelected. DYFS will generate a complaint and file it. Once you are served with a notice to show cause, the case begins. A notice to show cause is the court’s way of saying to you, “Okay, explain to me or show me why these allegations of abuse and neglect are not true.”
will i ever know who filed the complaint against me?
There are circumstances where we will be provided with sworn affidavits of the witnesses who make the allegations against you for abuse and neglect.
However, many times, DYFS will investigate these allegations after having received anonymous tips. DYFS has a duty to investigate all abuse and neglect cases even if the person making the accusation hides behind their anonymity. The well-being of a child overrides the need to know the identity of the accuser.
how is abuse and neglect defined?
New Jersey law defines abuse and neglect in the following manner:
Abuse is the physical, sexual or emotional harm or risk of harm to a child under the age of 18 caused by a parent or other person who acts as a caregiver for the child.
Neglect occurs when a parent or caregiver fails to provide proper supervision for a child or adequate food, clothing, shelter, education or medical care although financially able or assisted to do so.
DYFS files a complaint against me, what now?
The consequences vary. In some instances, allegations regarding sexual abuse may develop into criminal felony charges. This is why you need an attorney to help you from day one. Clients are not aware of their constitutional rights and often fail to assert their right to remain silent when questioned by agents of the state.
Other consequences involve having your child removed from your home and placed in foster care with another family. Again, these consequences can be devastating for you and your family.
how long will this DYFS case take?
There is no set period of time within which a DYFS case will end. Each case is different. Some cases involve multiple hearings, including psychological evaluations and other expert testimony, and therefore may take longer. Other cases are resolved in the early stages.
when am i allowed to tell my side of the story?
You are entitled to a trial. In the context of DYFS, it is called a fact-finding hearing. This is your constitutional “day in court”. Through your attorney, you are allowed to confront all witnesses against you, present your own witnesses, present all exonerating evidence and most importantly, you are allowed to testify and tell your side of the story.
These trials may be lengthy and very complicated. once again, it is in your best interest to hire an attorney to represent you. Keep in mind that DYFS will present their case through their own lawyer so you should also have your own lawyer who will defend you and fight for you.
if i lose at trial, can i appeal?
Yes. You have 45 days to appeal.
About the Author
Mr. Peyrouton is a Criminal Defense Attorney in Bergen County, NJ.