DeMystifying the Children in Court (CIC) Docket

On Wednesday, April 10, 2013, NewJerseyDYFSdefense founder, Allison C. Williams, Esq., will be presenting on a panel discussing defense of parents in child welfare (i.e., DYFS/DCPP) matters. The educational program for judges and attorneys will be presented to the Union County Bar Association (UCBA) immediately preceding the Mccloud Awards Dinner. Some of the topics will include:

– Should parents voluntarily speak to the Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCPP) regarding allegations of child abuse;

– How to gain access to DCPP records when no complaint has been filed by the agency;

– How to litigate a custody case and a DCPP case at the same time;

– How to secure the best parenting time arrangement during a DCPP case while a criminal investigation is ongoing and/or a criminal charge has been filed;

– When to consult DCPP counsel during a matrimonial case, when to refer it out and when to handle it behind the scenes;

– How to gain a strategic advantage over the agency while “call operating” with an investigation; and

– Much, much more!

The panel will include Superior Court Judge Camille Kenny, Deputy Attorney General Christian Arnold and law guardian in Patricia Vogler. The event will take place at LaFaire restaurant in Mountainside, New Jersey, starting at 4:30 PM.

This event further confirms that Ms. Williams is the foremost authority on parental defense in child welfare cases in the State of New Jersey.

If you or someone you know is involved with the Division of Child Protection and Permanency (formerly DYFS), and you may need assistance, please contact us at Paragano and Williams, LLC.

Medically Fragile Children in DCPP/DYFS Custody

Children who are considered “special needs” that end up in resource care are required to be placed with special placement providers who are trained to provide a higher degree of care. These homes are referred to as “ships” placements. “Ships” is abbreviated as SHSP (Special Home Service Provider).

Children who are placed in SHSP’s homes are typically those with medical injuries that require more frequent medical attention than children in the same age category without such injuries. However, not every child who has some form of medical ailment or injury requires such a placement. For instance, a baby who was not yet ambulatory at the time of an injury that is now in a cast requires no higher degree of attention and care than any other baby, except that she must have her cast carefully cleaned, examined, et cetera.

The determination of whether a child requires a SHSPs home is an important one. If the child is placed in such a home, the parent will likely receive substantially less parenting time with the child, as relative placements are unlikely. With standard placements, relatives can be provisionally approved, subject to completing the foster parent training (i.e., referred to as the Pride training course). If a child is medically fragile, the placement must be a SHSPs foster placement, and the division and the court are less likely to approve a relative for placement, subject to subsequent training.

Of course, one must question why this is the case. After all, if a parent leaves the hospital with a child in a cast, with a medical problem, one requiring higher attention in the detailed medical instruction, that child is still released to his parents with instruction from his doctors. Yet, with foster placements, the state takes the position that some “high degree” of medical training is required in order to have placement of the child, no matter the degree of injury or ailment from which the child suffers. This is likely because parents are entitled to commit simple negligence when caring for their children, whereas the state is not. As such, the state is less likely to accept well-intentioned foster placements that do not meet their highest criteria for care if the child has already been physically injured, resulting in removal from the parents and placement in foster care.

It is important to look to the child’s specific injuries when evaluating whether or not a SHSP home is required. Many times, when such a placement is not required, exploring the basis for the placement can give helpful insights to the court when evaluating the case as a whole. Specifically, if the Division has reached the knee-jerk conclusion that it must have been the parent’s abuse that caused the child’s injuries, the division often takes draconian measures to ensure the parent is afforded as little contact with the child as possible while in placement. This often occurs by the Division’s insisting upon a SHSP’s placement when one is not required.

One way of uncovering such a tactic is by demanding a copy of the nurse’s notes that must be maintained for every SHSP’s placement. The division’s nurse is required to see the child weekly and make a detailed log of the child’s medical status, feeding schedule and care instructions administered by the resource parents in order to ensure that the child’s medical needs are being met in that placement. The parent is entitled to receive a copy of this nurse’s log upon request.

Rarely are these logs kept consistent with the training protocols and the requirements set forth in the administrative code. When these deficits are highlighted, the court will often grow weary of the division’s position as to the necessity of the placement, thereby calling into question the division’s position as to other issues in the case, including the parents’ culpability for the child’s injuries. One never knows what will be found until the information is sought and explored.

If you or someone you know has a child in placement that has been declared medically fragile when that designation appears unwarranted, please contact Paragano and Williams, LLC for assistance.

Here is a perspective on child protection outside of the United States. I am chagrin to see that the United States is not the only industrialized nation that has taken “child protection” to these extremes…

Richard Kennedy & Co. Solicitors

I have a niece, living in England, who follows her vocation as a kind and caring teacher of children. She was recently here for a visit, and in conversation was asking about some aspects of our schooling system. One of her questions was to wonder if the law was the same in Ireland as in England where teachers are not allowed apply sun cream on children. It is considered to be inappropriate touching.

I was glad to be able to answer that not only is there no such law in Ireland, neither is there any such law in England. The fact that young people working with children believe that there is such a legal rule demonstrates the level to which misguided pseudo child-protection policies have become part of our accepted thinking.

Effective child protection policies are vitally important. However sometimes these policies manage to adopt the contradictory beliefs that while…

View original post 465 more words

Dealing With Professional Biased Opinions in Child Custody Battles

This problem surfaces in Child Welfare litigation, as well. Take a look at this excellent article discussing bias of professional opinions in Custody litigation.

About The Children, LLC's Blog

How to Combat Biased Third Parties

In many child custody dispute a third party can be brought in to evaluate both parents, or in some cases the children as well, to make an accurate conclusion based on the facts present such as mental and physical well being, financial stability or background assessments. This can sometimes be requested by one parent or the other, a family member involved in the child’s life or mandated by the judge before a court order can be drawn up. The person performing the evaluation will most likely be a Psychologist of a sub-field involving family dynamics or mental well being. It’s also not uncommon to have a legal professional do the evaluation. Unfortunately professional evaluators can carry a bias with them that can negatively affect mothers or fathers. It is possible to blow the whistle on a biased professional evaluator or get a different person…

View original post 397 more words

DCPP/DYFS Attorneys Making a Difference

Today marks the end of our first official month in business here at Paragano & Williams, LLC. In that brief time, the firm has signed up over a dozen new clients; won Domestic violence trials; secured reunification of a client accused of heinous child abuse with the alleged child victim that she never harmed; navigated investigations brought by the Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCPP), f/k/a the Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS); thwarted interruption in our client’s parental access due to DCPP investigations; sought and obtained an emergent remand from the Appellate Division, with reassignment to a different trial court judge; and secured speaking engagements at the NJSBA Annual Convention and the Barry Croland Family Law Inns of Court.

We appreciate the confidence that others have in our abilities, which we demonstrate time and time again.  We are committed to zealous advocacy and will remain the Aggressive Advocates who Care for our Clients.

We thank our adversaries, fellow practitioners who refer us business, and the judiciary for your loyal support and encouragement during our transition.  But most of all, we thank our wonderful clients for bestowing upon us the honor of representing your interests.  It is an awesome responsibility, which we take very seriously.

Here, at, we are commited to providing you with excellent service.  If you require representation in a DCPP matter or assistance in navigating the perilous process of a DCPP investigation, contact Paragano & Williams, LLC to schedule a consultation.

Recording of DYFS Investigation Interviews

A number of parents have contacted me to seek guidance on how to handle child welfare investigations. A common query is whether or not it is permissible to record an interview with the investigator from the Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCPP), formerly known as the Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS). The short answer is yes, child welfare investigations may be tape-recorded. However, the better question is whether or not the investigator will allow such recording.

So long as the tape recording is of a conversation to which the parent is a party, the recording is authorized and is not a violation of either of the New Jersey Wiretap Act or considered a tortious invasion of privacy. Unfortunately, the vast majority of division investigators will outright refuse a request to tape-record their conversations with the parent. This, of course, begs the question: If you are going to perform your job as required by law, why would you oppose the recording of your interview with the accused parent? Is it because you cannot manipulate the responses provided by the parent if those responses are captured on tape recording? Perhaps it is because you fear a lack of perfection in performing your job duties, which may be brought to the attention of your supervisor.

In fairness to the workers, most people would feel some degree of anxiety if the routine performance of their job duties was captured on a recording device. Nevertheless, not only should workers consent to tape-recording of interviews, but they should encourage them. The information gathered by a Division investigator is not dispositive of the outcome of the child welfare investigation… but, it greatly influences the outcome.

The information collected is to be provided to the agency supervisor, and ultimately, a determination will be made as to whether a child is at risk of harm, has been harmed and/or is the subject of abuse or neglect by the parent. However, because caselaw imbues the Division with a “high degree of reliability” in its collection of information that is documented in agency records, information later admitted into evidence in court proceedings summarily and with little personal knowledge by the testifying worker, it is imperative that the information collected be accurate.

The high caseloads of division investigators, the speed with which referrals must be investigated, the timing of presentment to the parent for their interview, the stress of the situation and the reality that fact gathering during stressful confrontations between potential child abusers and Division workers may distort perception, justifies – if not compels – the necessity of tape-recording to accurately capture what has been reported. Many Division workers are well-intentioned professionals who aim to protect children from abuse and neglect. However, because that is their stated objective, many workers come to believe that every referral investigated should be approached from the law-enforcement perspective of aiming to “shakedown” the crime they feel is ongoing. Consequently, very few parents have reviewed investigation summaries with counsel and found their statements accurately documented in agency records. The well intentioned social worker “documented” what she believed had occurred, rather than what the parent stated had occurred. This interviewer bias has been the subject of numerous psychological studies.

With all that is at stake, the legislature should require these investigation interviews to be recorded. If the goal is to truly protect children who have been abused or neglected, or are at risk of same, our system should want harmless families to be left alone so that division resources can be devoted to those truly in need of assistance.

If you or someone you know would like assistance with a Division investigation, that may or may not involve a tape-recorded interview, contact Paragano & Williams, LLC for a consultation.

Victory in Family Court Matter involving DYFS: A Cautionary Tale!

The firm of Paragano & Williams, LLC, has achieved a resounding victory for our client in the Appellate Division on an emergent basis!

We represent a Father wrongfully accused by his pre-teen daughter of excessive corporal punishment.  The Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCPP), f/k/a the Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS) investigated and deemed the child’s statements unfounded.  The Mother took it upon herself to remove the children from the Father in New Jersey, behind his back, and took them to her home in Maryland.  When law enforcement in both states refused to intervene, the Father retained Ms. Williams to secure their return.

Unfortunately, as is often the case, the trial judge had an immediate, negative reaction to the Father solely because of the DYFS investigation.  Never mind that DYFS ultimately concluded that no abuse or neglect had occurred.  Never mind that DYFS made that determination before the Father filed an application in Court.  The trial Court heard “DYFS” and immediately formed a perception that irreparably tainted the proceedings.  Believing the child’s words within the DYFS report, the trial Court became married to allegations that even the Division found not credible.

Without a trial, the court granted the mother custody and authorized her to start the children’s lives anew in another State.  The Appellate Division has reversed and remanded – on an emergent basis – to a different trial Court judge for an evidentiary hearing as required by law.  Proof positive that zealous advocacy can achieve justice, the pursuit of which is the passion of Paragano & Williams, LLC!

This, my friends, is a cautionary tale.  The Division of Child Protection and Permanency does not always substantiate child abuse or neglect.  Many times, the Division has access to witness statements, school records, medical reports and other evidence that normally would never be presented in Court, absent subpoena power, depositions and trial dates at substantial cost to the families.  Non-dissolution (FD) proceedings are replete with instances of well-intentioned jurists using the Division as a discovery agent and to determine issues of custody and parenting time.  That is not the Division’s role.

Unfortunately, parents rarely have the resources to battle the Division and to refute its collection of information.  In this instance, the Division took all of that voluminous information and made the determination that abuse and neglect was simply not present.  While I certainly do not suggest that the Division cannot err, the trial judge cannot dispense with a trial, rely upon the information gathered by DYFS and written into a report — without testimony — no matter the Division’s conclusion or the trial court’s agreement or disagreement with that conclusion.

Luckily, for our client, a new trial Court judge will take testimony in this matter, in the pursuit of the best interests of the children.

An interesting article detailing the importance of psychological experts in custody matters.

About The Children, LLC's Blog

 How to Avoid a Biased Recommendation from an Expert Witness

                In a custody and divorce situation, having an expert witness can either improve your case or work against you, depending on what side of the battle you’re on. Typically, father’s have a harder time obtaining custody of their kids. In cases like this, having an expert witness disclosing information to the judge that is against you can make things incredibly more difficult. What’s an expert witness? This is a person who has sufficient training, skills or knowledge such that the community deems them to be professional experts on a particular subject. This could be a Psychologist or a legal professional that is brought in to evaluate and assess the situation. In family law, this is usually because one part, or both parties involved, wants to have a professional determine a child’s psychological stability or assess a person’s ability to…

View original post 332 more words

Supreme Court Rules No Automatic Abuse from Drug Use During Pregnancy

The New Jersey Supreme Court has put its foot down against DYFS automatically ripping custody of a newborn child from its mother due to evidence the mother used drugs during pregnancy. Without expert evidence that the child has been harmed or is in imminent danger or at substantial risk of harm, the Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS), n/k/a the Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCPP) cannot enter a finding of abuse and neglect under Title 9, the unanimous court held Wednesday in DYFS v. A.L., A-28-11.

The relevant section, N.J.S.A. 9:6-8.21(c)(4)(b), cannot be used to protect a fetus since, the court held, the Legislature drafted Title 9 to protect children only after birth.

On September 10, 2012, we spoke about this very issue and what we knew would be this precedential ruling. See previous post on this site. Hopefully, armed with this wonderful decision for parental defense advocates, the division will make appropriate “reasonable efforts” required by law to prevent removal, rather than take infants from their mothers at the hospital solely because of her addiction.

If you or someone you know suffers from a drug or alcohol problem and fear the loss of your baby or excessive intrusion by the Division, contact us to schedule a consultation to discuss your matter.