Children In Court Services
Wilentz Justice Complex
Room 1265A, 12 th floor
212 Washington Street
Newark NJ 07102
(T) 973-776-9300 ext. 57064
Office Hours: 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m
- Child Placement
- Child Abuse & Neglect
- Guardianship/Termination of Parental Rights
- Child Placement Review
- Child Welfare Mediation
- Kinship Legal Guardianship
- Other Important Information
An FC case is established for any child who is placed outside his or her home under the supervision of the Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCP&P). A DCP&P caseworker files a Notice of Placement with Children in Court Services within 72 hours of the placement. These cases are reviewed by a trained citizen volunteer board known as the Child Placement Review (CPR) Board. The purpose of the board is to review cases in which a child has been placed outside his or her home and to make recommendations to the court. The goal is to provide a permanent case plan for the child as soon as possible.
The Court reviews all Notice of Placements within 15 days to determine if DCP&P used "reasonable efforts" to avoid placing the child outside of his or her home. The CPR Board must review these cases within 45 days. A permanency hearing must be held by the board in the eleventh month of placement. An annual permanency review is heard by the board every year thereafter.
Child Abuse (FN) cases involve complaints filed with the court alleging child abuse or neglect. After a DYFS caseworker makes a preliminary investigation into an allegation of child abuse or neglect, they may file a complaint with the Deputy Attorney General (DAG). The DAG then files a Complaint and Order to Show Cause with the Court to protect the child from harm. If on the return of the Order to Show Cause the allegation is substantiated the case proceeds.
The Court assigns a return date on the Order to Show Cause within 15 days. Thereafter Case Management Conferences are scheduled. A Fact Finding Hearing is to be heard within 30 days of the final Case Management Conference. The parents may stipulate to some or all of the allegations in the complaint and a finding of abuse or neglect will be entered. If a stipulation is not signed, a Fact Finding Hearing is held to determine whether or not the child has been abused or neglected. At this Hearing the Judge will make determinations regarding the allegations in the complaint.
Within one year of the establishment of the case, a permanency hearing must be held by the court. This hearing will establish a permanent plan and a Permanency Order will be entered. If the plan is for the child to return home, the Court should set a date for this to take place. If DCP&P plans to proceed to terminate the parental rights and take guardianship of the child, a complaint for guardianship and termination of parental rights must be filed.
In an emergency situation, when there is insufficient time to apply for a court order, a child may be removed from his or her home without a court order.
Guardianship involves the termination of parental rights of the parent or guardian of the child or children. The filing of a Termination of Parental Rights Complaint is often the end result of a proceeding for abuse or neglect. Federal and state legislation require that DCP&P file a termination of parental rights complaint when a child has been in placement for 15 of the last 22 months, unless an exception applies. The complaint is filed with the Family Court in the Children In Court Services Office, stamped, docketed and scheduled for an Order to Show Cause Hearing.
Parental rights must be terminated before a child can be placed for adoption. A final hearing or trial is scheduled to determine whether parental rights should be terminated. At the conclusion of the trial, the judge determines whether parental rights are terminated. An FG case can also be concluded in one of the following ways:
Identified Surrender: A voluntary surrender where a specific person is identified as the prospective adoptive parent. If the adoption by this person cannot take place for any reason the surrender is immediately vacated.
Surrender or Termination of One Parent: A surrender of custody or termination of parental rights of one parent shall not affect the rights of the other parent. One parent may not act as the agent or representative of the other parent.
The Child Placement Review Act [N.J.S.A. 30:4C-50 et seq.] is a legislative mandate which provides for an external review of cases by a trained citizen volunteer board when children have been placed outside the home by the DCP&P.
This provides an opportunity for all parties involved, including resource parents, to meet in a confidential setting with a trained mediator to attempt to resolve issue(s) pending in the case. If an agreement is reached, that agreement is placed on the record in court.
The Kinship Legal Guardianship law became effective January 2002. This law creates a new means of establishing a permanent home for children who cannot reside with their parents due to the long-term incapacity or inability of the parents. It assists families by legally recognizing this caregiver relationship providing certain legal rights to caregivers with respect to raising the child to adulthood that include but, are not limited to, educational and medical decisions.
Some Facts about KLG:
- While the KLG arrangement is intended to be a permanent placement until the child reaches eighteen (18) years of age, it does not terminate the parental rights and obligations of the natural parents.
- Individuals who have provided care and support for a child (not their own) in their home for at least twelve (12) consecutive months and, who are eighteen (18) years of age or older, may petition for kinship legal guardianship status.
- The court may provide for an order permitting parenting time/visitation with the child with a birth parent.
- An award of Kinship Legal Guardianship does not relieve a parent of the responsibility to provide for the support of a child if so ordered by the court.
- An award of Kinship Legal Guardianship does not affect the rights of inheritance and eligibility for benefits or insurance for the child.
Kinship Legal Guardians serve as parental figures in many important ways including:
- Decisions concerning the child’s care and well being
- Consenting to routine and emergency medical and mental health needs
- Arranging and consenting to educational plans for the child
- Applying for financial assistance and social services for which the child is eligible
- Applying for motor vehicle operator license
- Applying for admission to college
- Responsibility for activities necessary to ensure the child’s safety, permanency and well being
- The court may also order the guardian to assume other responsibilities as appropriate.
A petition/complaint for Kinship Legal Guardianship can be filed through the Kinship Navigator Program, established by the New Jersey Department of Human Services, if there is no current involvement, through DCP&P. The Kinship Navigator Program can be contacted by calling toll-free NJ 211 or by writing to Kinship Navigator Program, PO Box 716, Trenton, NJ 08625-0716. For additional information contact the Children in Court Services Unit at (973) 776-9300 ext. 57063.
Parents or guardians of a child who are named as defendants are entitled to legal representation throughout the child abuse and neglect and termination of parental rights process. An attorney may be appointed for a parent or guardian who cannot afford one through the Office of the Public Defender. A person can apply for a Public Defender by completing a 5A form which can be obtained from the DCP&P caseworker or at their first court appearance. Application forms are also available in the Children In Court Services Office. All 5A application forms are screened for eligibility by the Children In Court Services Office and sent to the Office of the Public Defender. All children involved in those proceedings are also represented by a Law Guardian who is appointed by the Office of the Public Defender.
Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA):
(CASA): Room 912, 9th Floor, 212 Washington Street, Newark, NJ 07102, 973-622-4829
Essex County CASA is an independent, court-authorized, nonprofit organization which works with professionally trained and supervised volunteers to promote the welfare of children in Essex County who have been removed from their homes because of abuse, neglect or abandonment.
CASA serves as a child's "voice in the court process," and works to ensure that needed services and assistance are made available while helping to move the child toward a safe and permanent home.
Association For Children of New Jersey (link to www.acnj.org) Division of Child Protection and Permanency .
The Division of Child Protection and Permanency’s Community Education Office provides information about child abuse and neglect, parenting, child development, and other topics of interest and importance to families as a public service.
Parents Anonymous, Family Helpline (24 hours a day - 7 days a week) 1-800-THE-KIDS
To Report Child Abuse: Any person having cause to believe that a child has been subjected to child abuse or acts of child abuse and neglect should notify DCP&P immediately or call the 24-hour Child Abuse Hotline. 1-877-NJ-ABUSE (652-2873), TDD# 1-800-835-5510.
When contacting DCP&P, where it is possible, have the name and address of the child and parent, guardian, or other person with custody; the child's age, and the nature and extent of the child's injuries, abuse, or maltreatment, and any other information that may be helpful.
Links:Department of Children and Families (DCP&P) (http://www.state.nj.us/dcf/divisions/dyfs/)
Association For Children of New Jersey (www.acnj.org)
Court Appointed Special Advocates (www.casaessex.org )