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Will the New Jersey Budget Crisis Hurt Parental Rights?

The State of New Jersey is on the precipice.  Tax revenues are down due to the effects of the recession.  The Division of Youth and Family Services seems oblivious to the hard fact of declining resources.  DYFS continues to increase the number of families that it supervises or seeks to supervise.  Something has to give.  What will be cut, and how will that effect your parental rights if you are involved with DYFS?

Because of the New Jersey state budget crisis, there will be pressure - and rightly so - for the state government to cut spending.  For DYFS, the solution to diminished resources should be simple.  DYFS could respond by using the “Jerry Maguire” philosophy.  In the hit movie “Jerry Maguire”, the protagonist causes quite a stir in the sports and entertainment agency firm when he circulates a memorandum that proposes a change in corporate philosophy.  Jerry’s thesis:  Serve less clients, do a better job.  It would make sense for DYFS to serve less clients and do a better job with the more serious cases of abuse and neglect.  I think that we are pretty safe in predicting that DYFS will not reduce the number of families that it supervises, despite the fact that it could do so without any danger to children.

The budget pressure will manifest itself in other ways, ways which will harm parental rights.

It is likely that there will be short furloughs.  According to reports, state workers will be asked to take two day furloughs.  DYFS workers and the attorneys who represent them will have two less days in which to do their jobs.  The likely result is that it will be much more difficult for parents to communicate with their DYFS workers and for the parents’ attorneys to communicate with DYFS’s representatives.  The result will be to make life even more difficult for those whose lives are supervised by DYFS.

It is also likely that there will be less money for rehabilitative services.  In many instances, DYFS is required to provide rehabilitative services to parents.  Services such as drug/alcohol rehabilitation, parenting classes, anger management etc. are quite often required by law and enforced by court order.  The budget crisis will likely restrict the resources available to DYFS to provide rehabilitative services.  Reduced services will tend to cause more conflict between DYFS and families, and will tend to extend DYFS’s supervision of many individual families.

The bottom line is that the budget crisis has the potential to erode parental rights and privacy in New Jersey. 

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