In a child abuse proceeding, the role of the agency remains twofold. First, they have to make a reasonable effort to prevent the removal of a child from the child’s parent. Or, if a child has been removed, they have to make reasonable efforts to reunify the child with his or her parents.
Once the case is in court, the agency has to prove a violation of either Title 9, which is the abuse and neglect statute, or Title 30, which is the parental unfitness or termination of parental rights guardianship statute. It’s not sufficient for the agency to simply file an action in court noting that they have concerns or that they believe a parent is not acting appropriately. They have to have concerns that rise to the level of either child abuse and neglect, which is defined as actual harm, imminent risk of harm or substantial risk of harm, or parental unfitness that would warrant some type of compulsory court-ordered services for the family that would be imposed by a judge.
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