Once the agency gets the phone call, there are a certain number of minimum steps that are required. The initial investigation requires contact with the child. The agency has to see the child, speak to children who are verbal and observe non-verbal children. It further requires that there be a discussion with caregivers in the home and any adults in the home that are over the age of 18. Finally, the accused parent, whoever is purported to have done the act, must also be interviewed.
If the information provided is proven accurate, that it would constitute child abuse and neglect, the investigation then proceeds to a formal investigation, and that includes contact with the pediatrician, school personnel, and any collateral sources that the parents can offer that can confirm or refute the allegations. Here, the agency is required to speak to at least two sources that can exculpate the accused parent.
The steps of the initial investigation are mandatory. They cannot be deviated from. But beyond that, they have a lot more wiggle room in order to determine whether or not they feel the risk is so substantial that it constitutes child abuse. Unfortunately, a parent or third party’s retaliatory call to the agency can’t simply be upended by mere recantation of the allegation. Once the agency’s involved, they have to do certain things to make sure that they can say, to a reasonable degree of certainty, there is no concern for child safety and can leave the family.
Allison C. Williams is a matrimonial and family law attorney serving Short Hills New Jersey. Her practice places an emphasis on complex child welfare matters. www.familylawyersnewjersey.com