Making and Screening Reports of Child Abuse and Neglect - New Jersey

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Individual Responsibility to Report

Citation: Ann. Sat. § 9:6-8.10

Any person who has reasonable cause to believe that a child has been subjected to abuse or neglect, including sexual abuse, shall report the same to the Division of Child Protection and Permanency by telephone or otherwise.

Content of Reports

Citation: Ann. Stat. § 9:6-8.10

The report, where possible, shall contain the following:

  • The names and addresses of the child and the child's parent, guardian, or other person having custody
  • The child's age, if known
  • The nature and possible extent of injuries, including any evidence of prior injury
  • Any other information that might be helpful with respect to the child abuse and the identity of the perpetrator

Reporting Suspicious Deaths

This issue is not addressed in the statutes reviewed.

Reporting Substance-Exposed Infants

Citation: Admin. Code §§ 3A:26-1.1; 3A:26-1.2; 3A:26-1.3

The division shall receive reports of substance-affected infants from ambulatory care facilities and hospitals. Upon receipt of a report, the division shall first determine if the report is an allegation of child abuse or neglect, and if a determination that a report is an allegation of child abuse or neglect, respond in accordance with applicable law.

For reports that are not determined to be allegations of child abuse or neglect, the division representative shall offer services to the parent of each substance-affected infant on a voluntary basis.

The term 'substance-affected infant' means an infant to whom any of the following applies:

  • Whose mother had a positive toxicology screen for a controlled substance during pregnancy or at the time of delivery
  • Who has a positive toxicology screen for a controlled substance after birth that is reasonably attributable to maternal substance use during pregnancy
  • Who displays the effects of prenatal controlled substance exposure or symptoms of withdrawal resulting from prenatal controlled substance exposure
  • Who displays the effects of a fetal alcohol spectrum disorder

Reports of substance-affected infants must include the following information:

  • The name of the substance-affected infant, if known
  • The names of the substance-affected infant's mother and father, if known
  • The home addresses of the substance-affected infant's mother and father, if known
  • The types of substances affecting the substance-affected infant and the harm, if any, caused to the substance-affected infant resulting from his or her exposure to the substances
  • Circumstances known to the reporter that would affect an evaluation of the situation, including, but not limited to, awareness of medications prescribed to the mother of the substance-affected infant

Agency Receiving the Reports

Citation: Ann. Stat. § 9:6-8.12

The division shall at all times maintain an emergency telephone service for the receipt of calls involving a report, complaint, or allegation of child abuse or neglect.

Initial Screening Decisions

Citation: Ann. Stat. § 9:6-8.11; Admin. Code Tit. 3A, §§ 10-2.1; 10-2.2

Upon receipt of a report, the division shall immediately take such action as shall be necessary to ensure the safety of the child and to that end may request and shall receive appropriate assistance from local and State law enforcement officials. The division shall initiate an investigation within 24 hours of receipt of the report, unless a delay is authorized based upon the request of a law enforcement official. The division also shall, within 72 hours, forward a report of such matter to the child abuse registry.

In regulation: The central registry shall deem a call to be a report if it contains at least one allegation that, if true, would constitute a child being an abused or neglected child, as defined by law.

Child Protective Services (CPS) shall start the investigation of a report no later than the end of the work day or within 24 hours of the central registry determining the timeframe. Each report that meets one or more of the following criteria shall be investigated no later than the end of the work day of receipt:

  • Law enforcement personnel request an immediate response.
  • An immediate response will prevent the loss of evidence.
  • A child has died due to abuse or neglect and a sibling remains under the care of a parent or guardian.
  • A child is born drug exposed.
  • A child under age 6 is alone at the time of the report.
  • A child requires medical attention at the time of the report.
  • A child is being seriously physically abused at the time of the report.

Agency Conducting the Assessment/Investigation

Citation: Admin. Code Tit. 3A, §§ 10-2.1; 10-5.4; 10-5.5

CPS shall investigate each new report, regardless of whether the alleged child victim and his or her family are known to the department. CPS shall investigate each report alleging abuse or neglect on a military installation to the extent permitted by the base commander.

Each child protective investigator shall request assistance from and make every effort to coordinate investigative activities with local law enforcement when conducting an investigation and whenever:

  • The child protective investigator needs personal protection.
  • The nature of the report suggests it.
  • There is an immediately life-threatening situation.
  • Violence is occurring or is immediately threatened.

Each child protective investigator shall, when conducting a child protection investigation of a report in which law enforcement, a regional diagnostic and treatment center, a child advocacy center, medical and psychological personnel, or a multidisciplinary team is involved, participate in the coordination of the following activities:

  • Interviewing the alleged child victim and the alleged perpetrator
  • Accessing appropriate investigative medical and psychological services
  • Making timely and appropriate linkages to treatment

Each child protective investigator shall make information developed during the investigation available on a timely basis to any party identified above and involved in the case, within the limits of the law.

Assessment/Investigation Procedures

Citation: Admin. Code Tit. 3A, § 10-3.1

In conducting an investigation of a report containing any allegation, the child protective investigator shall do the following:

  • Complete a safety assessment
  • Interview, in person and individually:
    • The caregiver and each adult in the home
    • In cases that had been open within the previous 2 years, the worker who is the most knowledgeable about the family
    • Each other child residing in the home of the alleged child victim
    • The reporter and each other person identified as having knowledge of the incident or as having made an assessment of physical harm
    • The alleged perpetrator
  • Complete a child abuse record check of each household member and each other individual regularly frequenting or living in the alleged child victim's home
  • Conduct a criminal history record check to identify a paramour's record of criminal history, when the report involves a paramour
  • Complete a risk assessment
  • Observe the environment in which the alleged abuse or neglect occurred or that poses a threat to the child
  • Obtain a medical assessment of the injury

In completing an investigation, the investigator shall do the following:

  • Assess the strengths and needs of the caregiver and the alleged child victim
  • Confirm child care arrangements reported by the caregiver, when appropriate
  • Interview the following:
    • At least two collateral contacts, including school personnel, child care providers, witnesses, and community professionals who have first-hand knowledge of the alleged abuse or neglect
    • Each person residing at the address of occurrence and each witness offered by the alleged perpetrator
    • Each investigative law enforcement officer working on the report
    • Each primary response law enforcement personnel called to the scene of the alleged abuse or neglect
    • Each medical professional directly involved with the treatment of the child

Timeframes for Completing Investigations

Citation: Admin. Code Tit. 3A, § 10-7.3

The child protective investigator shall make the finding for each report within 60 days of the report being received at the central registry, except for good cause approved by the office manager. The officer manager may grant extensions in increments of 30 days if the child protective investigator is continuing efforts to confirm credible information.

Classification of Reports

Citation: Admin. Code Tit. 3A, §§ 10-7.3; 10-7.4

For each allegation of abuse or neglect, the department shall make a finding on whether an allegation is substantiated, established, not established, or unfounded, as follows:

  • An allegation shall be 'substantiated' if the preponderance of evidence indicates that a child is abused or neglected and the investigation indicates the existence of any of the circumstances listed below.
  • An allegation shall be 'established' if the preponderance of evidence indicates that a child is an abused or neglected child, but the act or acts committed or omitted do not warrant a finding of substantiated as defined above.
  • An allegation shall be 'not established' if there is no preponderance of evidence that a child is an abused or neglected child, but evidence indicates that the child was harmed or was placed at risk of harm.
  • An allegation shall be 'unfounded' if there is no preponderance of evidence indicating that a child is an abused or neglected child, and the evidence indicates that a child was not harmed or placed at risk of harm.

The existence of any one or more of the following circumstances shall require a finding of substantiated when the investigation indicates:

  • The death or near death of a child as a result of abuse or neglect
  • Subjection of a child to sexual activity or exposure to inappropriate sexual activity or materials
  • The infliction of injury or creation of a condition requiring a child to be hospitalized or to receive significant medical attention
  • Repeated instances of physical abuse committed by the perpetrator against any child
  • Failure to take reasonable action to protect a child from sexual abuse or repeated instances of physical abuse under circumstances where the parent or guardian knew or should have known that such abuse was occurring
  • Depriving a child of necessary care that either caused serious harm or created a substantial risk of serious harm