Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Dealing with DYFS

Should you ever have the misfortune of dealing with DYFS with respect to your children you may be reminded of reading a novel by Kafka.  Even good parents can wind up in the snares of allegations, and sometimes ex spouses or lovers (or as DYFS likes to call them "paramours") will attempt to use DYFS as a weapon in custody battles.  Title 9 and Title 30 of the New Jersey Statutes contain the provisions regarding neglected and/or abused children.

There are many issues involved in representing a client dealing with a DYFS matter, knowing the procedures in the court, familiarity with the use of experts, knowing when the DYFS or its legal representatives are overstepping their bounds.  The three figures you will be dealing with are the case worker, the Deputy Attorney General that represents DYFS as their client, and the Law Guardian who represents the child or children.

The usual standard for DYFS is to attempt the reunification of the child(ren) with the parent(s).  When this is not possible for whatever reason (drug addiction, imprisonment, use of alcohol, lack of shelter), then DYFS should be attempting to place with appropriate family members.  This does not always happen and sometimes can be the basis for reversing the placement of a child in a foster care home.  A relative's home must be approved, and ultimately licensed as a foster care provider.  The last option is to have the child placed with an unknown foster parent or parents.

Should the reunification of the child not be possible then DYFS can seek to place the child for adoption.  Parents may chose to surrender their rights to have the child adopted only by an appropriate care taker.  This is called an identified surrender.  If the caretaker can not adopt, then the case reverts to the status before the parents' rights were terminated. 
Another option is called "kinship legal guardianship" or "KLG".  This option permits a more limited transfer of custody to the caretakers.  The caretaker cannot adopt the child or children or change the name of the minors.  The parent or parents have the right to make a motion to reopen the case should conditions change, for instance if a parent was drug addicted but successfully changed his or her life around and shows continued sobriety.  DYFS and Law Guardians will often argue that this option should only be available for older children to provide "stability" of placement but it is ultimately up to the court to decide whether KLG is appropriate.

Should you face a situation that DYFS comes into your life, you should contact an attorney, either a public defender or a private attorney.

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