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NJ DCF Logo with reverse copy

 

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

2-5-96

Subchapter:

4

Law Enforcement

Issuance:

200

Reporting to the Prosecutor

 

 

The Law                                            12-19-2005

 

“The primary concern of all public agencies involved with abuse and neglect is to ensure the safety, well-being, and best interests of the child.  Other considerations, such as the objective of maintaining family integrity, promoting family functioning or the concern for traditional “parental rights,” are secondary.”  (N.J.A.C. 10:129-1.4)

 

New Jersey Law, N.J.S.A. 9:6-8.36a, requires CP&P to report to the County Prosecutor those cases of alleged abuse and/or neglect that involve suspected criminal activity on the part of a child‘s parent, caregiver, or any other person.  Rules for compliance with this law have been adopted and issued in the New Jersey Administrative Code, N.J.A.C. 10:129-5.  See NJAC-10-129-5 for a copy of these rules.

 

Conditions Reportable to the Prosecutor       2-6-2012

 

“Caseworkers are obligated to immediately report to the prosecutor all cases involving suspected criminal conduct on the part of a parent, caregiver, or any other person.  This obligation will be satisfied if caseworkers refer to the prosecutor all cases involving any of the following:  (This list shall not be construed to preclude the referral of any other case which, in the judgment of the caseworker and supervisor, warrants review by the prosecutor.)

 

1.    Death of a child;

2.    The subjecting or exposing of a child to unusual or inappropriate sexual activity;

3.    Any type of injury or condition resulting in hospitalization or emergency room treatment;

4.    Any type of injury or condition that requires significant medical attention (for example., treatment for broken bone at physician’s office);

5.    Repeated instances of physical violence committed against a child, or substantially depriving a child of necessary care over a period of time; or

6.    Abandonment of a child.”  (N.J.A.C. 10:129-5.1(b))

 

Previous non-reported incidents relative to conditions one through six and situations involving religious-based refusal to consent to medical treatment relative to conditions one through six must be reported to the prosecutor.

 

Routine medical care sought/received through a hospital emergency room should be treated in the same way as routine medical care sought/received through a physician, clinic or HMO.

 

If a Safe Haven infant is reported to the Division (see CP&P-IV-C-5-100), CP&P contacts the Division of State Police, Missing Persons Unit, (609) 882-2000, to facilitate a police search of missing person files, to determine if the child was reported kidnapped or missing in New Jersey or elsewhere.  In accordance with procedures developed by the Attorney General, the State police advise the County Prosecutor of the report.  CP&P advises the local police department.  See CP&P-IV-C-5-100 

 

Sexual activity occurring between children, whether voluntary or forced, is reportable to the Prosecutor when there is reason to believe that such activity may have occurred (or cannot be ruled out) and when there is reason to believe that the caregiver, e.g., foster parents, institutional staff, etc., may have contributed to the situation by their failure to take reasonable steps to prevent its occurrence or recurrence.

 

Sexual advances or activity between a caregiver and a child is reportable to the Prosecutor whenever such activity is confirmed or even suspected.

This policy regarding referral applies whether the child is residing at home or in an institution, school or other residential facility, and whether the person believed to be responsible for the injuries is the child’s parent, caregiver, or any other person.  (N.J.A.C. 10:129-5.1(d))

 

Child deaths may also be reportable to the county Medical Examiner.  See CP&P-II-C-4-150.  Also see the Agreement of Cooperation between the Division of Child Protection and Permanency and the State and County Medical Examiners.

 

Accidental vs. Non-accidental                2-6-2012

 

While several of the criteria set forth above are based solely upon the objective condition of the child, there should also be some reason to believe that the injury or condition was not accidentally caused.  For purposes of these guidelines, an injury is not accidental if an intentional act produces an unintended result.  Thus, a parent, caregiver, or any other person who physically disciplines a child may have committed child abuse even though the resulting injury was not intended.  (N.J.A.C. 10:129-5.1(c))  However, if upon investigation it appears to the Worker that a child was most likely injured in an accident (not involving gross negligence on the part of the parent or caregiver), and from CP&P’ point of view the case would be considered closed, there is no suspected criminal activity to be reported to the Prosecutor.

 

Refusal to Provide Medical Care on Religious Grounds                 2-15-96

 

If a case is reportable under the guidelines listed above, it must be referred to the Prosecutor if the child’s condition appears to be the result of parental refusal to provide medical care on religious grounds.  However, the Worker should be careful to note the parent‘s religious based explanation on the reports to the Prosecutor.  Normally the Worker would recommend no investigation in this situation.  Cases involving religious based refusal to consent to medical treatment but which do not fall within the reporting guidelines need not be referred to the Prosecutor.  In either case, usual hospital and legal procedures should be followed to provide the necessary treatment.

 

When to Report                  2-15-96

 

“The Department’s duty to refer a case to the prosecutor immediately arises as soon as the caseworker has any information about the case which leads him or her to suspect that the alleged abuse or neglect may have occurred.  This means that the child’s condition or injury is one of those specified in this policy and the caseworker has reason to believe that the condition or injury was not accidentally caused.

 

In some cases, such as where the child is in a hospital and a doctor states his or her opinion that the condition or injury was probably not accidental, the caseworker will have sufficient information to require a report at a very early stage of the investigation.  In other cases, such as where evidence initially supports the claim that the condition or injury was accidentally caused, the duty to report may not arise until a later point when the caseworker has conducted a more extensive investigation.

 

Thus, referral need not be made at the time a report is first received by the Department even if the report provides information to place the case in one of the categories set forth in this policy.  This information should be supported by the belief of the caseworker.  This does not mean that the caseworker must have completed an investigation and secured solid evidence of abuse or neglect.  Rather, cases falling within these categories must be referred at the point at which the caseworker has some suspicion that the child’s condition or injury was not accidentally caused.”

(N.J.A.C. 10:129-5.1(e))

 

Reporting Documents                  2-15-96

 

Immediate, prompt referrals of child abuse and neglect cases are important, and in some cases essential.  Hence, written referrals . . . . which contains a narrative description of the essential facts, shall be sent to the prosecutor as soon as the caseworker determines that referral is required by this policy.  The referral shall be made as soon as possible by telephone, with written confirmation being sent within 48 hours thereafter by fax.  (N.J.A.C. 10:129-5.1(f))  In other cases, the Worker sends the Prosecutor the written documentation as soon as possible, but no later than five days from completion of the initial protective services investigation.  If the determination is made after five days from the initial protective services investigation that the situation is reportable to the Prosecutor, the Worker immediately sends the Prosecutor written documentation.

 

Additional Information                  2-15-96

 

The worker provides all factual information which is requested regarding specific incidents currently under investigation.  Subjective and conclusionary statements, and information regarding previous incidents not currently under investigation should be released only if subpoenaed.

 

CP&P Recommendation to the Prosecutor                2-6-2012

 

“When referring a case to the prosecutor, the caseworker may already have information sufficient to arrive at a preliminary conclusion concerning the need for investigation by a law enforcement agency.  This conclusion will be based on standards in this policy.  A recommendation and underlying reasons therefor will be communicated to the prosecutor at the time the case is referred.”  (N.J.A.C. 10:129-5.2(a))

 

CP&P Recommendation Not Accepted           2-6-2012

 

“Recognizing that the caseworker may have already conducted a preliminary investigation of the case, that the caseworker has some experience and expertise enabling him or her to assess the need for action by the prosecutor, that in some cases efforts already made to ameliorate the underlying problems may be undermined by the initiation of a police investigation and that the caseworker is also in a position to identify cases in which immediate action by a law enforcement agency is required, the prosecutor shall give due consideration to the recommendations of the Department.  If the prosecutor determines to investigate a case notwithstanding a contrary recommendation by the Department, he or she should discuss the matter with the caseworker, his or her supervisor or the local office liaison before initiating the investigation.”  (N.J.A.C. 10:129-5.2(b))

 

County Prosecutor Liaison                     2-6-2012

 

“In order to facilitate communication with the Department and coordinate handling of abuse and neglect cases, each county prosecutor will designate an assistant prosecutor to serve as liaison to the Department’s local office for such cases.  The person so designated will be responsible for keeping the Department informed as to the course of action taken by the prosecutor.  In addition, and to the extent practicable, each prosecutor will delegate to one or several investigators responsibility for conducting all investigations of abuse and neglect cases.”  (N.J.A.C. 10:129-5.3(a))

 

Local Office Liaison                       2-6-2012

 

“The Division will establish, consistent with this policy, specific procedures for making referrals which will include participation of supervisory personnel in identifying cases that this policy requires to be referred and designation of a person in each local office to act as a liaison to the prosecutor.  Copies of such procedures will be furnished to all county prosecutors.”  (N.J.A.C. 10:129-5.1(f))

 

Investigation by Prosecutor        2-6-2012

 

“The prosecutor may take various courses of action upon receipt of a referral, among them, the following:

 

1.    Advise the Department staff member making the referral that the prosecutor will not undertake an investigation and request that the prosecutor be advised immediately of any indication of further or continuing abuse or neglect.

2.    With advance notice to the Department, undertake an initial investigation using, to the extent practicable, specially designated investigators or refer the matter to a designated officer in a local police department for initial investigation.”  (N.J.A.C. 10:129-5.3(b))

 

Criminal Prosecution        2-6-2012

 

“After investigating a case, the prosecutor will determine whether criminal prosecution must be undertaken.  He or she should confer with the caseworker in making this determination and will advise the caseworker of his or her decision.”  (N.J.A.C. 10:129-5.3(c))

 

Criminal Complaints                      2-15-96

 

CP&P in general does not sign criminal complaints against parents or other caregivers.  CP&P will satisfy its obligation by reporting to the Prosecutor.  It is the prosecutor’s prerogative to sign complaints when they are warranted.

 

CP&P Prosecutor‘s Office Disagreement About Whether CP&P Should Intervene

2-15-96

 

The child’s needs must take precedence over the conduct of a criminal investigation whenever there is a question about the continued access of a perpetrator to a vulnerable child, a child‘s welfare and/or a child’s physical safety.  For this reason, procedures were developed for resolution within 24 hours when CP&P and a prosecutor’s office disagree about whether CP&P should intervene while both agencies are investigating an abuse/neglect situation.

 

CP&P and other agencies named below are to proceed as follows:

 

A.           Level A Resolution

            Where the CP&P Worker and a member of the Prosecutor‘s staff disagree on whether a child’s safety is “at risk” and CP&P should intervene, the matter will be immediately referred to the CP&P Local Office Manager and the assigned Assistant Prosecutor to resolve the issue.

 

B.           Level B Resolution

            If agreement is not reached at level A, the matter will be immediately referred to the CP&P Director and to the County Prosecutor for resolution.

 

C.           Level C Resolution

            If the matter cannot be resolved at level B, it will be immediately referred to the Commissioner of the Department of Children and Families and to the Director of the Division of Criminal Justice, or his designee, for resolution.

 

D.           Time Limit for Resolution

            If the matter is taken to level C, a decision nevertheless shall be reached within 24 hours from the time of the original disagreement.

 

Procedures Related to Reporting to the County Prosecutor         2-15-96

 

RESPONSIBILITY

ACTION REQUIRED

 

 

Worker

 

1.          Determine that one or more of the reportable conditions exists:

·         “death of a child;

·         the subjecting or exposing of a child to unusual or inappropriate sexual activity;

·         any type of injury or condition resulting in hospitalization or emergency room treatment;

·         any type of injury or condition that requires significant medical attention (for example, treatment for a broken bone at physician‘s office);

·         repeated instances of physical violence committed against a child, or substantially depriving a child of necessary care over a period of time or;

·         abandonment of a child.”  (N.J.A.C. 10:129-5.1(b))

 

2.          Have reason to believe that the condition or injury of the child was not accidentally caused.

NOTE:  “Thus, a parent, caregiver or any other person who physically disciplines a child may have committed child abuse even though the resulting injury was not intended.”  (N.J.A.C. 10:129-5.1(c))

 

3.          Complete Investigation Summary, DCF Form 2-1, in NJS, approve the work, and forward to Supervisor for review and approval.

NOTE:  “The referral shall be made as soon as possible by telephone, with written confirmation being sent within 48 hours thereafter by fax.”  (N.J.A.C. 10:129-5.1(f)) 

In other cases, send Investigation Summary, DCF Form 2-1, no later than 5 days from completion of the initial protective services investigation.

 

Supervisor

4.          Review and electronically approve Worker’s Investigation Summary, DCF Form 2-1.

Worker

5.          Print out and send a copy of the approved Investigation Summary, DCF Form 2-1, to the Prosecutor.

Prosecutor

6.          Advise the Worker/Supervisor whether or not an investigation by the prosecutor or local police department will be initiated.

7.          Confer with the Worker and determine whether criminal prosecution must be undertaken.

8.          Advise the Worker of the decision regarding criminal prosecution