When the Division of Child Protection and Permanency receives a referral, it is required by law to investigate. A required component of that investigation includes speaking with the accused parent. N.J.A.C. 10:129-3.1(b)(7). Another required component of the investigation includes inspecting the home environment of the allegedly abused or neglected child. N.J.A.C. 10:129-3.1(b)(4). These components, along with others, are evaluated to help the agency assess risk. Risk must be assessed with each allegation investigated, as child safety may be impaired without such a determination.
Unfortunately, the determination of risk comes with or without the parent’s involvement. If risk cannot be assessed unless the home is evaluated, the Division may conclude – having considered the balance of factors that they must evaluate – that the missing information (i.e., the state of the home or the explanation of the parent) is essential and without it, the only safe alternative is to presume a harm exists, remove the child and await a determination by a Court.
Conversely, there are times when the parent’s failure to allow a home inspection or interview of the accused may annoy the investigators and perhaps increase the likelihood that litigation may ensue, but would not prompt a removal. The critical determination for the agency is whether there exists an “imminent risk of harm” (which is required for removal, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 9:6-8.28 and -8.29) or a “substantial risk of harm” (which is required for a finding of abuse or neglect as defined in N.J.S.A. 9:6-8.21(c)).
My experience has been that few cases turn on the state of the home, where that is the only remaining piece of a child welfare investigation to be completed. Nonetheless, there are certainly times when a parent is better served by denying access to the home. If a parent elects to deny access, the Division may threaten to remove the child — whether a basis exists for such action or not. In order to evaluate the merits of such a threat, it is imperative that parents consult counsel before making the final decision and declaration that access to the home will not be granted.
If you or someone you know are considering denying access to a home that is the subject of a child abuse investigation or refusing an interview with the Division, please contact Paragano & Williams, LLC to make sure you are making the right choice.
When a parent has allowed a thorough search, interview with parents, 2 interviews each with children, then it is time to question whether DHS is harassing the parent because the agency is not happy with the way the case is progressing. One of the children was hospitalized as suicidal, after the second interview. This is a bi polar teen. The day after her release the worker shows up at school, the child refuses to talk to her, the child calls the mother sobbing, the worker goes to the home never mentioning the school visit and wants to meet with the mother to “plan”. The mother is on the phone with the mental health case manager asking for advice. Case manager advises to call attorney. An appearance has been filed by the attorney along with a request that the attorney be present for any such meeting. The worker shows up at the house twice more that day with police officers. When the attorney gets on the phone with the PO they say “just standing by” and give worker the phone. She says “just a well child check” “never threatened removal”. At earliest visit to home, worker told parent that if parent is denying access to home and children she would come back with order to remove children. Mother immediately went and picked up both children. Two subsequent visits until talk with attorney. Mother will not send children to school, fearful that worker will again frighten mentally ill child.