New Jersey residents who never dreamed that they could be the subject of D.Y.F.S. supervision or D.Y.F.S. litigation are increasingly finding themselves under D.Y.F.S.’s watchful eye. When D.Y.F.S. sets its sights on your family, you need a N.J. attorney who has extensive experience in D.Y.F.S. matters. Instead of handling less cases and doing a better job with those cases, New Jersey D.Y.F.S. has responded to the constant, negative media exposure by supervising more families. As a result, D.Y.F.S. is supervising and investigating families that never would have dreamed that D.Y.F.S. would be in their hair. There are four very common ways that unwanted and unnecessary D.Y.F.S. supervision come about. (If you have a question about a legal term in this article, then click on this link.)
1. Referral by the school. School officials have the obligation to report suspected abuse or neglect to D.Y.F.S.. These referrals come from observations of injuries and from disclosures made by children to their teachers or advisors. Most often the disclosures are alcohol or drug related.
2. Referral by the police. As a general matter, police will report to D.Y.F.S. if they suspect that a child is an abused or neglected child. In addition, when police respond to the scene of domestic violence with children present, or they stop a parent for driving while intoxicated with their child in the car, they are supposed to report the matter to D.Y.F.S.
3. Anonymous referral. People make referrals to the child abuse hotline are allowed to remain anonymous. While the hotline is well-intended, it is also well abused by vindictive people. The anonymous referrals are quite often unfounded, but still result in an investigation.
4. Referral by physician or healthcare professional. As a general rule, doctors must keep your medical information confidential. Your patient confidentiality rights are protected by law. However, there is an exception to that rule. When a healthcare professional suspects child abuse, he or she can and in some cases is required to report to D.Y.F.S.
This list is not exhaustive. It contains the most common source of referrals that our firm has encountered. It is important to have sound, experienced legal advice when dealing with D.Y.F.S.. Howes & Howes has ten years experience in D.Y.F.S. cases in New Jersey, having acted as Law Guardian, Guardian ad litem and having represented parents in child protection litigation.