This article will explain what to do if you believe that a child is being abused or neglected. It will discuss how to report your concerns to the Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCP&P), formerly DYFS. Reporting child abuse or neglect to DCP&P is a serious act. You must have a good reason to believe that a child is being abused or neglected before you make a report. DCP&P will investigate the report. If DCP&P does not find any cause for concern, it will close the case. However, if DCP&P is concerned about a child, it may try to provide services to help the family. If the family does not agree to accept services, DCP&P may file a court case and seek a court order requiring the family to accept supervision and/or services from DCP&P. If DCP&P believes that the child is unsafe at home, it may file a court case seeking to remove the child from his or her home and place the child in a foster home or other out-of-home placement.
What does child abuse or neglect mean?
New Jersey’s law defining child abuse and neglect uses general terms. According to the law, child abuse or neglect means that a parent, guardian, or caretaker has done one of the following things:
Who is required to report?
New Jersey law requires that any person having reasonable cause to believe that a child has been subjected to abuse or neglect must report it immediately to the Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCP&P).
Can I be sued for making a report to DCP&P?
No, not unless you give information that you know is wrong. You have immunity from any criminal or civil liability if you make a report to DCP&P that you believe to be true.
What can happen if I fail to report abuse or neglect of a child?
If you have reasonable cause to believe a child is being abused or neglected and fail to report it to DCP&P, you can be charged with a disorderly persons offense. A person convicted of a disorderly persons offense is subject to a $1,000 fine and up to six months in jail.
Do I have to give my name when making a report?
No. You have a right to remain anonymous or to ask that your name be kept confidential by DCP&P. However, you may want to consider giving your name when making a referral. If DCP&P has your name, DCP&P can get back to you to get further information that may help its investigation.
Where should I call to make a report?
Call the local DCP&P office in the county where the child you are concerned about resides. Call on weekdays between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m.
On weekends, holidays, or after hours, call DCP&P’ Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-792-8610.
Can I make a referral in writing?
DCP&P accepts referrals by telephone, in writing, or in person from all sources. If you want to make a referral in writing, send it to the DCP&P office in the county where the child lives.
What information should I provide when making a referral?
When will DCP&P conduct an investigation?
The time frame for DCP&P to conduct its investigation depends on several factors. The most important is the risk to the child. DCP&P conducts immediate investigations in cases where there is a claim that:
DCP&P will begin an investigation within 24 hours if:
In general, investigations of neglect referrals are started within 72 hours. However, neglect investigations will start immediately if the child is at risk of harm.
Investigations of child sexual abuse frequently require additional time to plan and coordinate. These investigations generally occur as soon as possible, within 72 hours. However, they will take place immediately if:
What will DCP&P do in response to a referral?
Will DCP&P involve law enforcement in the investigation of these allegations of child abuse?
Yes, if the allegations involve suspected criminal conduct. If DCP&P suspects that the case may involve criminal conduct, it may conduct a joint investigation of the case with law enforcement. New Jersey law requires DCP&P to report all cases of child abuse and serious neglect to the County Prosecutor for criminal investigation.
This information last reviewed: Jan 12, 2017