Every year, there are approximately 90,000 allegations of child abuse and neglect in New Jersey. Of cases reported in 2019, 67,000 were determined to be “not established” by the State’s Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCP&P).
The determination of “not established” is problematic and not much of a legal standard. The “not established” category was created exclusively by DCP&P. It applies where the evidence of abuse and neglect falls short of the preponderance of the evidence standard. This essentially creates a new “standard” not recognized in any other area of law. As such, these 67,000 cases are put into this gray zone by DCP&P. While DCP&P did not find enough evidence of abuse and neglect warranting intervention, it found just enough to tar a parent’s record.
Statistically, DCP&P places 75% of abuse and neglect cases into this category. Rather, DCP&P should do the necessary and tedious work of establishing, substantiating or eliminating allegations of abuse and neglect.
Additionally, a “not established” finding seriously impacts parents. For instance, it can affect:
- potential employment
- coaching opportunities
- volunteer opportunities
- parental rights
Recently, I argued before the New Jersey Supreme Court on behalf of the New Jersey State Bar Association to abolish this standard as it is amorphous. Further, I argued that it has a lasting and grievous impact on parents and their children.
Meanwhile, we wait for the Supreme Court’s decision, and hope that it acts swiftly and decisively in eradicating the “not established” standard.
Please contact me with any questions or concerns relative to DCP&P.