The Importance of Appealing a DYFS/DCPP Substantiation of Abuse/Neglect


If the Division of Child Protection and Permanency substantiates an allegation of child abuse or neglect, the perpetrator’s name is listed on the Child Abuse Central Registry. N.J.S.A. 9:6-8.11. This is a confidential list that is maintained by the Department of Children and Families. Only a limited number of agencies have a statutory right to access the Registry, including licensed daycare providers, adoptive agencies and residential elder care facilities. For all others, a request must be made in writing to the Division to release the information, and failing same, court order must be sought.

School districts employing teachers are not, by statute, entitled to check the Registry. However, nothing in the law prevents an employer (including a school district) from requesting an applicant’s consent to authorize the Division to release this information for purposes of evaluating her employability. Further, nothing in the law protects an applicant from an employer’s choice to draw an adverse inference from an applicant’s failure or refusal to release the information.

So, if a person is listed on the Registry, they remain in jeopardy of having an employer-requested background check that could preclude him from employment. If you receive a letter advising that the Division had substantiated an allegation of abuse or neglect, you should appeal. Instructions will be provided in the letter, advising where to send the request and what information is required.

An administrative appeal occurs in the Office of Administrative Law (OAL). The Rules of Evidence do not apply. The procedure is trial-like, but the cases are tried “de novo”. Rather, the a question for the Administrative Law Judge is whether the agency’s decision is arbitrary, capricious or unreasonable. Because of these differences between Superior Court litigation and administrative practice, it is imperative that an accused parent/caregiver select an attorney that is skilled in handling these matters.

If you or someone you know has been substantiated for abuse or neglect and desire to appeal, please contact Paragano & Williams, LLC to schedule a consultation.

DYFS Lawyer: All Lawyers are not Created Equal


When a parent is accused of abuse or neglect, or faces the most severe life consequence of termination of parental rights, a lawyer with expertise in the field of child welfare law is vital to parent defense. Many lawyers advertise that they are capable of adeptly handling a DYFS matter. Some are correct. Unfortunately, many more are not.

DYFS litigation is imbued with complexities that transcend basic family law. This area of litigation requires an intimate familiarity with agency law and procedure, Superior Court law and procedure, and the intersection of the two. It requires an understanding of social work, psychology, psychiatry, mental health generally and medical conditions. It requires an understanding of the Rules of Court and Rules of Evidence, many of which differ from those applicable to matrimonial and family law. It requires an intimate familiarity with two key statutes defining abuse, neglect and parental unfitness, and their subparts. Few attorneys have this familiarity.

Many parents seek out an attorney who is skilled in the field of family law. One way of determining if a practitioner is skilled in family law is by seeking those who have been Certified by the Supreme Court of New Jersey as a Matrimonial Law Attorney. While these practitioners are deemed competent in the field of family law, they are not necessarily so in the field of Child welfare law. To become certified, one must pass an examination created by the Board on Attorney Certification. This examination does not include any material covering child welfare law topics.

Choosing an attorney is an important step in the reunification and sustenance of families involved in the child welfare system. Parents should be careful not to choose a lawyer simply because they are a skilled family law practitioner or, even worse, simply because they advertise that they are a “DYFS Lawyer“.

If a parent is seeking representation by an attorney with the skills, reputation and knowledge needed to help adeptly navigate the child welfare system, please contact Allison C. Williams, Esq. for a consultation.

Evidence in DYFS cases to be discussed in a panel discussion


On Monday, August 13, 2012, Allison C. Williams will be presenting for the New Jersey Institute of Continuing Legal Education (ICLE) in the preeminent Evidence for Family Lawyers CLE. This program is designed to provide hours of rich information about the intricacies of the Rules of Evidence in the Family Part.

Of critical importance is ICLE’s willingness to include topics related to DYFS (n/k/a DCPP) cases – a progressive move demonstrating ICLE’s continuing responsiveness to the needs of the legal community.

And, further, this is a real testament to Allison C. Williams’ fervent efforts to educate the bench, bar and society at large about litigation within the child welfare system in New Jersey.