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New Jersey Department of Children and Families Policy Manual

 

Manual:

CP&P

Child Protection and Permanency

Effective Date:

Volume:

II

Intake, Investigation and Response

Chapter:

C

Initial Response

4-1-2013

Subchapter:

1

Case Assignment

Issuance:

300

Limiting Conflicts of Interest

 

 

Introduction to and Referral of Conflict of Interest Cases              6-9-2003

 

This policy, in conjunction with the Memorandum of Understanding between the Department of Children and Families, Division of Child Protection and Permanency and the Office of the Public Defender, Office of Law Guardian, sets forth guidelines for screening, assessment, referral, investigation and service delivery in situations involving CP&P employees and those persons with whom they have a personal or professional relationship, or with whom their objectivity is or may be impaired or compromised.  Such persons may include, but are not limited to:

 

·         Current CP&P employees and their families, or

 

·         Immediate household members (other than where CP&P is the service provider and the person is already a CP&P client), such as service providers under contract.

 

The policy emphasizes avoiding conflicts of interest or the potential for conflicts of interest when the objectivity of a worker is, or may be compromised or impaired, through special handling of case assignments (allegations of abuse or neglect) and additional precautions for the protection of case record information.

 

It is imperative that each CP&P employee has knowledge of the Department of Children and Families' conflict policy, including procedures for appropriate complaint referral to the Public Defender Conflict Investigation Unit (PDCIU).  Any CP&P employee having questions or concerns regarding the appropriateness of a conflict of interest referral should contact the CP&P State Central Registry (SCR).  SCR has the responsibility to refer any allegations/complaints which may present a conflict of interest to the Public Defender Conflict Investigation Unit.

 

In addition, a CP&P employee must immediately notify the investigating worker of his/her relationship with CP&P, if the employee or his/her relatives become involved in a CPS investigation not being handled by the PDCIU.  This ensures compliance with conflict of interest policies and procedures, and maintains the investigation's integrity.

Reports from CP&P to the Office of the Public Defender, Office of the Law Guardian shall be handled by and processed through SCR.  Office of the Public Defender staff are available to receive reports and supervise SPRU workers, if necessary, on a 24-hour basis.  The PDCIU may request CP&P assistance in obtaining a medical examination of a child.

 

CP&P staff cooperation and compliance with the policy and procedures pertaining to conflict of interest assists in preserving confidentiality and integrity while providing protection and support for children and families in instances where a conflict of interest or the potential for a conflict of interest exists.

 

Mandated Referrals to the PDCIU                                  6-9-2003

 

In accordance with the Memorandum of Understanding, to avoid any conflict of interest in the investigation of child abuse and neglect complaints, CP&P and the Office of the Public Defender agree that CP&P is mandated to refer child abuse and neglect complaints to the Public Defender Conflict Investigation Unit for investigation under the following circumstances:

 

·         The complaint alleges that a CP&P employee (or an approved volunteer) engaged in child abuse or neglect while in the course of his/her official duties;

 

·         The complaint alleges that a current CP&P employee engaged in child abuse or neglect towards his/her own family or otherwise not in the course of his/her official duties; and

 

·         The complaint alleges that an immediate household member of a current CP&P employee engaged in child abuse or neglect.

 

Department of Children and Families Recommended and Required Referrals to the PDCIU                                                                                                6-9-2003

 

The Department of Children and Families further recommends and requires CP&P refer the following allegations/complaints to the Public Defender Conflict Investigation Unit for screening and possible investigation:

 

·         The complaint alleges abuse or neglect of a child by a relative of a current CP&P employee, when the relative is not living immediately within the CP&P employee's household; and

 

·         The complaint alleges abuse or neglect of a child by an individual who is neither related to, nor a household member of a current CP&P employee, but whose relationship with an employee is such that there could be potential for a conflict, based on the possible impairment of a worker's objectivity.

 

Permissible Referrals to the PDCIU                              6-9-2003

 

CP&P and the Office of the Public Defender further agree that the CP&P Deputy Director, Program Operations, after consulting with the Public Defender's Office, may refer the following allegations/complaints to the Public Defender Conflict Investigation Unit for investigation:

 

·         The complaint alleges that a CP&P foster parent or pre-adoptive parent engaged in child abuse or neglect; and

 

·         The complaint alleges that an individual engaged in child abuse or neglect, and a CP&P investigation of that individual may create a potential conflict of interest due to the individual's professional interaction with CP&P.

 

Definitions                            2-9-96

 

As used in this policy:

 

"CP&P employee" means any person employed by any CP&P field or administrative office and its approved volunteers, regardless of the person’s CP&P work location, work duties, or CP&P work hours.

 

"His or her own children" means the biological and/or adopted children of the alleged perpetrator, children in the process of being adopted by the alleged perpetrator, or any child related to the alleged perpetrator or for whom the alleged perpetrator serves as a caregiver or parent substitute.

 

Assignment of Investigation and Assessment of Referrals and Requests for Services and Service Delivery                                         2-9-96

 

The following guidelines apply to referrals received by the Division during regular business hours.  Procedures specific to the State Central Registry and SPRU operations are described below.

 

Allegations of Abuse or Neglect to Refer to the PDCIU       6-9-2003

 

Mandated Referrals:

 

·         Allegations that a Division employee, while on the job, abused a CP&P client under the age of 18 -- i.e., a child on a CP&P caseload, a child for whom CP&P has custody, supervision, and/or guardianship, or a child associated with a case at intake -- shall be referred to the Office of the Public Defender Conflict Investigation Unit, via the CP&P State Central Registry (SCR), for investigation.

 

·         Allegations that a current CP&P employee abused or neglected his or her own child, or an immediate household member of a current CP&P employee abused or neglected a child shall be referred to the Public Defender Conflict Investigation Unit, via the CP&P State Central Registry (SCR), for investigation.

 

·         Allegations that a current Central Office employee or a member of his or her immediate family abused or neglected his or her own children shall be brought to the immediate attention of the Senior Staff member to whom the employee reports.  The Senior Staff member shall refer the matter immediately to the State Central Registry (SCR) who will immediately telephone the Public Defender Conflict Investigation Unit (PDCIU).

 

·         Allegations that a CP&P Senior Staff member, a commissioner, a judge, a Deputy Attorney General, an elected official, or other person of prominence abused or neglected his or her own children should be brought to the immediate attention of the CP&P Director.  The CP&P Director will immediately notify the State Central Registry (SCR) who will telephone the Public Defender Conflict Investigation Unit (PDCIU).  If the CP&P Director is the subject of the allegation, the Deputy Director, Program Operations notifies the DCF Commissioner, who contacts SCR, who contacts PDCIU.

 

Recommended/Required Referrals:

 

·         Any allegations, complaints or investigation wherein the objectivity of a CP&P employee is, or may be impaired, shall be referred to the Public Defender Conflict Investigation Unit, via the CP&P State Central Registry (SCR), for investigation.

 

·         Allegations that a relative of a current CP&P employee, who is not an immediate household member of the employee, has abused or neglected a child shall be referred to the Public Defender Conflict Investigation Unit, via the CP&P State Central Registry (SCR), for investigation.

 

·         Allegations of abuse or neglect of a child by an individual who is not a household member of nor related to a current CP&P employee shall be referred to the Public Defender Conflict Investigation Unit, via the CP&P State Central Registry (SCR), for investigation, if the relationship of the individual to a CP&P employee creates a conflict of interest or the potential for a conflict of interest.

 

Permissive Referrals:

 

·         Allegations of child abuse or neglect made against CP&P foster parents, pre-adoptive parents, or others whose professional interface with the Division creates a potential conflict of interest, may be referred to the Public Defender Conflict Investigation Unit, for investigation, at the discretion of the CP&P Deputy Director, Program Operations, following the Deputy Director's consultation with the Public Defender.

 

Requests for Services and Service Delivery              6-9-2003

 

The Assistant Director, Program/Adoption Operations shall determine, on a case by case basis, the office responsible for providing services when an investigation is conducted and the family continues to receive services.  The Assistant Director, Program/Adoption Operations shall use the criteria in this policy in making this determination.

 

The Assistant Director, Program/Adoption Operations shall determine, on a case by case basis, the office responsible for responding to each request for services received from:

 

-     Current or former CP&P employees,

-     Family members, friends and neighbors of current and former CP&P employees, or

-     Persons who have a professional or personal relationship with CP&P employees or with CP&P, the agency, such as, service providers under contract with the Division.

The Assistant Director, Program/Adoption Operations shall use the criteria in this policy in making this determination.

 

Allegations of Abuse and Neglect Involving Former CP&P Workers      6-9-2003

 

Determining the Investigating CP&P Office                3-16-2009

 

Determine whether the investigating office shall be from within the jurisdiction covered by the Area Office to which the originating office reports, or from a different Area Office, as guided by the following:

 

·         Situations to be handled by a Local Office from outside the jurisdiction covered by the Area Office include:

 

-     Allegations against employees who worked in offices that serve on an Area-wide basis (including IAIU);

-     Allegations against employees who worked in the Area Office;

-     Allegations against a former Local Office Manager; and

-     Allegations against immediate family members of the above-cited former employees.

·         All other situations shall be handled by a Local Office within the jurisdiction covered by the Area Office, excluding the Local Office where the former employee worked.

 

Criteria for Consideration in the Assignment of Cases for Assessment and Service Delivery                                                                        6-9-2003

 

In the above situations, as well as other situations that may cause an actual or apparent conflict of interest for an individual employee or CP&P, the Assistant Director, Program/Adoption Operations shall consider the following criteria in determining which office will respond or provide services:

 

·         The nature/sensitivity of the case, the job responsibilities of and position held by the named individual, and associated issues;

 

·         Who in the Local Office needs to be involved, and whether any of these employees have a personal relationship with the referred client/applicant that presents a conflict of interest or the potential for a conflict of interest, which could impair or compromise the employee's objectivity;

 

·         Whether objectivity and confidentiality issues can be satisfactorily resolved by assignment to another worker and/or unit within the Local Office;

 

·         Whether satisfactory arrangements can be made for the maintenance and storage of the case record and other handling of hard copy and computer case information; and

 

·         Whether the needed services should be provided in another catchment area.

 

Use of Standard Operating Procedures                                  2-9-96

 

All policies and procedures for responding to referrals, conducting protective service investigations, assessments and providing services shall be applied in responding to the situations covered under this policy.  The safety of children shall be as important in these cases as in all other situations coming to the attention of the Division.

 

Ensuring Confidential Handling of Case Information          6-9-2003

 

Close working quarters in CP&P field offices, inter-personal relationships among staff, employee access to information, and other factors may conflict with a client's rights to privacy, or may impede or compromise the investigation, assessment or service request.  It is, therefore, particularly important to take extra precautions when a referral concerns a CP&P employee or a member of an employee's family, or any other individual where issues of confidentiality and objectivity may be raised as a conflict of interest.  Both Federal and State law emphasize the need to maintain confidentiality of agency case records, and prescribe penalties for misuse of information.

 

The Division's computer NJ SPIRIT(NJS) information, and all other CP&P systems and reports contain confidential information and are to be accessed by appropriate staff members for official, job-related purposes only.  It is illegal for any employee to look at confidential information for personal reasons.  When activating NJS terminals, terminal operators throughout the State are advised, by a message appearing on the computer screen, that accessing client-related information "subjects the user to federal laws and regulations which provide that obtaining any data by illegal means and/or disclosure to unauthorized persons could subject the offender to fines of up to $5000 and/or five years in jail, as well as to civil liability," in accordance with Title 5, United States Code Annotated, Government Organizations and Employees (5 U.S.C. 552 and 552a).  Any person who willfully permits or encourages the release of the contents of any CP&P client record or report in contravention of the State law that prohibits the release of child abuse information shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and subject to a fine of not more than $1,000.00, or to imprisonment for not more than three years or both, in accordance with the provisions of N.J.S.A. 9:6-8.10a.

 

The receipt of allegations against, referrals about, or service requests from Division employees and others addressed in this policy shall be handled in accordance with the aforementioned federal and State confidentiality laws, and with the CP&P Field Operations Manual policy, CP&P-IX-G-1-100 as applicable to the "general public."

 

Each Local Office Manager will establish and maintain a process for the confidential handling and secure storage of the case records and other paper and computer information for these sensitive cases.  This process must be approved by the Assistant Director, Program/Adoption Operations.  Each screener and each supervisor shall be familiar with this policy and the issues of confidentiality that accompany the cases covered by this policy.

 

Procedures for Field Office Receiving a Report That Poses a Conflict of Interest, the Potential for a Conflict of Interest, or May Impair/Compromise a Worker's Objectivity                                                                 4-1-2013

 

Allegations Received at a Field Office that a Division Employee Abused a Child - a CP&P Client - While in the Course of Performing Official Duties  

 

 

RESPONSIBILITY

ACTION REQUIRED

 

 

Screener/Staff Member Screener/Staff Member

1.  Notify the Office Manager of the referral information.

 

Office Manager/Supervisor

2.  Notify immediately the State Central Registry (SCR).

 

State Central Registry State Central Registry

3.  Contact, by telephone, the Public Defender Conflict Investigation Unit (PDCIU) and provide all available complaint information to begin an investigation.

 

4.  Notify, immediately, or soon thereafter, the CP&P Director.  Provide all complaint information.

 

5.  Forward a copy of the referral to the PDCIU, no later than the next business day.  Handle as confidential mail.

 

CP&P Director or Designee 

6.  Forwards a copy of the referral to the CP&P field office responsible for case management of the child, and to the Commissioner, Department of Children and Families, in accordance with DCF Critical Incident criteria.  See CP&P-IX-D-1-100.

 

CP&P Field Office

7.  Notify the child's parents or guardian.

 

Public Defender Conflict

8.  Investigate/intervene, as Investigation Unit appropriate, in accordance with procedures outlined in the Memorandum of Understanding.

 

9.  Forward the investigation findings to SCR for data entry.

 

10. Provide the CP&P Director with a report of the investigative findings.

 

11. Issue findings letter to appropriate parties in accordance with CP&P policy.

 

12. Contact the Prosecutor’s Office, where the situation meets the criteria for reporting to the County Prosecutor, CP&P-II-C-4-200.

 

13. Respond to inquiries from CP&P to facilitate appropriate supervision of the case.

 

CP&P Director or Designee

14. Notify the PDCIU of any action that CP&P takes on or completed cases with a Substantiated Established finding. Notify the PDCIU on the final disposition of each case investigated by the PDCIU.

Established finding. Notify the PDCIU on the final disposition of each case investigated by the PDCIU.

 

Public Defender Conflict

Investigation Unit

15. Testify regarding the investigation, as needed, in any subsequent court proceedings, etc., pertaining to Substantiated or Established findings, or personnel action based on investigation findings.

 

 

 

Reports Alleging Abuse/Neglect by a Current CP&P Employee of His or Her Own Child or of a Child by a Household Member or Relative of a Current CP&P Employee                                                                                  4-1-2013

 

 

RESPONSIBILITY

ACTION REQUIRED

 

 

Screener

1.  Gather information from the referral source in accordance with CP&P screening procedures.

 

2.  Immediately advise the Office Manager.

 

Office Manager

3.  Immediately notify the State Central Registry, providing all complaint information.

 

State Central Registry

4.  Notify, by telephone, the Public Defender Conflict Investigation Unit, and provide all complaint information.

 

5.  Notify, immediately, or soon thereafter, the CP&P Director.  Provide all complaint information.

 

6.  Forward a copy of the referral to the PDCIU, no later than the next business day.  Handle as confidential mail.

 

CP&P Director or Designee

7.  Forward a copy of the referral to the CP&P field office responsible for case management of the child, and to the Commissioner, Department of Children and Families, in accordance with DCF Critical Incident criteria.  CP&P-IX-D-1-100.

 

Public Defender Conflict Investigation Unit

8.  Investigate/intervene, as appropriate, in accordance with procedures outlined in the Memorandum of Understanding.  Consult with the appropriate Area Director if a child is at imminent risk of harm and emergency removal of the child is necessary.

 

9.  Forward the investigation findings to SCR for data entry.

 

10. Provide the CP&P Director with a report of the investigative findings.

 

11. Issue findings letter to appropriate parties in accordance with CP&P policy.

 

12. Contact the Prosecutor’s Office, when the situation meets the criteria for reporting to the County Prosecutor, CP&P-II-C-4-200.  Inform CP&P of notice to the County Prosecutor.

 

13. Respond to inquiries from CP&P to facilitate appropriate supervision of the case.

 

 

 

Office Manager

14. Determine, in consultation with the Administrator, Local Office/Adoption Operations, whether the employee's job responsibilities should be suspended, curtailed, or in any way affected while the matter is under investigation, when there is an allegation of abuse or neglect and the client is a CP&P employee.  Maintain confidentiality.

 

15. Consult the Office of Employee Relations before taking any action against an employee.  (The employee may be entitled to exercise due process rights and/or consult with union representation, based on any adverse action taken against him or her.)

 

CP&P Director or Designee

16. Notify the PDCIU of any action that CP&P takes on a completed case with a Substantiated finding or an Established finding.  Notify the PDCIU on the final disposition of each case investigated by the PDCIU.

 

Public Defender Conflict Investigation Unit

17. Testify regarding the investigation, as needed, in any subsequent court proceedings, etc., pertaining to Substantiated or Established findings, or personnel action based on investigation findings.

 

 

 

Identity of the Employee/Relationship of a Client Family to an Employee not Known Prior to Field Response or Prior to Assignment           6-9-2003

 

 

RESPONSIBILITY

ACTION REQUIRED

 

 

Worker

1. Stabilize the immediate crisis.

 

2. Advise his or her supervisor or Office Manager of the nature of the referral or situation as soon as practical -- from the field if the situation is of an urgent nature, otherwise in person, at the office, as soon as possible/that work day.

 

3. Advise his or her immediate Supervisor as soon as possible that he or she cannot accept the case assignment or maintain responsibility for the case due to a personal conflict of interest.

 

Supervisor

4. Assign the case to member of his or her unit who can remain objective and where there will not be a conflict of interest or the potential for a conflict of interest.

 

5. Inform the Office Manager, if the Supervisor discovers that he or she is related to a client family (member of his or her immediate or extended family), or knows the client family on a personal basis (e.g., a neighbor, a friend, a church/temple member), affecting his or her objectivity toward the referral, the Supervisor.

 

Office Manager

6. Proceed as delineated in this policy if it is determined that the referral involves a current CP&P employee or a member of the immediate household of an employee, and abuse/neglect is alleged.

 

7. Instruct the head clerk to intercept computer registration documents prior to input, if possible.  Make other arrangements, if the head clerk is named in the referral, or if becoming involved in the referral in any way could compromise the head clerk’s authority in the office.

 

 

 

Referrals Received at the State Central Registry During Business Hours That Pose a Conflict of Interest                                                                             6-9-2003

 

 

RESPONSIBILITY

ACTION REQUIRED

 

 

State Central Registry

1. Refer matters alleging that an employee abused a CP&P child client to the Public Defender Conflict Investigation Unit for investigation. 

 

2. Notify, immediately, or soon thereafter, the CP&P Deputy Director, Program Operations.  Provide all complaint information.

 

3. Refer requests for services on behalf of employees to the manager of the field office in the catchment area where the employee lives.

 

 

 

Reports Received at the State Central Registry Not During Business Hours which Allege that a CP&P Employee Abused a CP&P Client While on Duty 

4-1-2013

 

 

RESPONSIBILITY

ACTION REQUIRED

 

 

State Central Registry

1.  Refer by telephone such complaints received at the State Central Registry after regular working hours, on weekends and State holidays directly to the Chief Investigator of the Public Defender Conflict Investigation Unit, regardless of whether the situation is emergent or non-emergent.

 

2.  Forward copies of the referral to the PDCIU. Handle as confidential mail.

          

3.  Notify, immediately, or soon thereafter, the CP&P Director.  Provide all complaint information.

 

 

CP&P Director or Designee

4.  Forward a copy of the referral to the CP&P field office responsible for case management of the child, and to the Commissioner, Department of Children and Families, in accordance with DCF Critical Incident criteria.  SeeCP&P-IX-D-1-100.

 

CP&P Field Office

5.  Notify the child's parents or guardian.

 

Public Defender Conflict

Investigation Unit

6.  Investigate/intervene, as appropriate,

in accordance with procedures outlined in the Memorandum of Understanding and CP&P initial response procedures.  See CP&P-II-C-2-200.

 

7.  Contact the Prosecutor’s Office, when the situation meets the criteria for reporting to the County Prosecutor, CP&P-II-C-4-200.  Inform CP&P of notice to the County Prosecutor.

 

8.  Respond to inquiries from CP&P to facilitate appropriate supervision of the case.

 

 

CP&P Director or Designee

9.  Notify the PDCIU of any action that CP&P takes on completed cases with a finding of Substantiated or Established.  Notify the PDCIU on the final disposition of each case investigated by the PDCIU.

 

Public Defender Conflict Investigation Unit

10. Testify regarding the investigation, as needed, in any subsequent court proceedings, etc., pertaining to Substantiated or Established findings, or personnel action based on investigation findings.

 

 

 

Reports Received at the State Central Registry Not During Business Hours which Allege that a CP&P Employee Abused His or Her Own Child                                                                                                                             4-1-2013

 

 

RESPONSIBILITY

ACTION REQUIRED

 

 

 

State Central Registry

1.  Notify, by telephone, the Public Defender Conflict Investigation Unit, and provide all complaint information.

 

2.  Mark the document/form “Confidential."

 

3.  Notify, immediately, or soon thereafter, the CP&P Director.  Provide all complaint information.

 

CP&P Director or Designee

4.  Forward a copy of the referral to the CP&P field office responsible for case management of the child, and to the Commissioner, Department of Children and Families, in accordance with DCF Critical Incident criteria.  See CP&P-IX-D-1-100.

 

Public Defender Conflict

Investigation Unit

5.  Investigate/intervene, as appropriate, in accordance with procedures outlined in the Memorandum of Understanding and CP&P initial response procedures. See CP&P-II-C-2-200. Request SPRU staff to assist with the investigation, if necessary and appropriate, and provide supervision.

 

State Central Registry

6.  Provide, no later than the next business day, written confirmation of the complaint to the Public Defender Conflict Investigation Unit.

 

Public Defender Conflict

Investigation Unit

7.  Contact the Prosecutor’s Office, when the situation meets the criteria for reporting to the County Prosecutor, CP&P-II-C-4-200.  Inform CP&P of notice to the County Prosecutor.

 

8.  Respond to inquiries from CP&P to facilitate appropriate supervision of the case.

 

CP&P Director or Designee

9.  Notify the PDCIU of any action that CP&P takes on completed cases with a Substantiated or Established finding.  Notify the PDCIU on the final disposition of each case investigated by the PDCIU.

 

Public Defender Conflict

Investigation Unit

10. Testify regarding the investigation, as needed, in any subsequent court proceedings, etc., pertaining to Substantiated or Established findings, or personnel action based on investigation findings.