Everyone has heard the story of little Caylee Anthony in Florida; and even more have heard the story of JonBenet Ramsey, a young beauty queen who was thought to be the victim of kidnapping, before her body was discovered.
With CBS recently airing a two part series, entitled, “The Case of: JonBenet Ramsey”; kidnapping – which is easily every parent’s worst nightmare, the thought of forever losing the most helpless and precious members of our families is at the forefront of our minds. We want to do everything in our power to prevent this from ever happening to our family.
But, what if your children are taken, not because of a stranger in the middle of the night – but because of an allegation of abuse and neglect?
New Jersey residents are all familiar with DYFS (Division of Youth & Family Services), now referred to as DCPP (Department of Child Protection & Permanency).
If you reside in New York, you should be familiar with ACS (Administration for Children’s Services). Both of these state agencies are entrusted with the legal right to remove your child from your home. The evidence required for an initial emergency removal is whether it is necessary to avoid an “imminent risk of harm”.
Under New Jersey Law, New Jersey Statute Annotated 9:6-8.29 (a), Emergency Removal Without Court Order …. The Division of Child Protection and Permanency shall not be required to provide reasonable efforts to prevent placement if removal of the child is necessary due to imminent danger to the child’s life, safety, or health …
Under New York Law, New York Family Court Act, Section 1024(a) Emergency Removal Without Court Order … A designated employee of a city or county department of social services shall take all necessary measures to protect a child’s life or health including, when appropriate, taking or keeping a child in protective custody… if (i) such person has reasonable cause to believe that the child is in such circumstance or condition that his or her continuing in said place of residence or in the care and custody of the parent or person legally responsible for the child’s care presents an imminent danger to the child’s life or health; and (ii) there is not time enough to apply for an order under section one thousand twenty-two of this article.
However, there are many instances in which an “imminent risk” of harm, as determined by the caseworker, is not the same under the law. Without a zealous attorney at the court hearing to challenge the removal – which usually takes place within 48 hours – what should only be an emergency removal on a temporary basis, often turns into a prolonged battle with the state agency in order to regain custody of your child.
Even if the parents of a child are not in a position to regain custody of their children, there is often a village of relatives or family friends standing in line to help, if needed.
Unfortunately, for many, licensing standards for foster parents (also referred to as resource parents) are often applied to relatives, and sometimes wrongly. As a relative or family friend, what is referred to as a “rule-out” letter may be issued to you, telling you that you did not “pass” DCPP or ACS licensing standards, and that the child will not be placed with you.
It is important to know that receiving one of those letters is not the end, as they are often authored and issued by DCPP or ACS caseworkers, and may be legally inaccurate.
It is absolutely imperative to hire an attorney who is familiar with DCPP and ACS procedure and licensing standards to ensure that your rights, and the interests of your children, are protected. Not every matrimonial attorney, or even custody attorney, may have sufficient knowledge to adequately challenge DCPP or ACS.
If your children have been taken by DCPP or ACS, the time to act is immediately.
Patricia A. Ames, Esq. is a licensed attorney in the states of New York and New Jersey, and is the Owner &Managing Partner of AMES LAW GROUP. She is a former attorney for the State of New Jersey, Office of the Law Guardian, where she exclusively practiced child abuse and neglect law for many years. She has spent many years successfully challenging DCPP emergency removals, licensing decisions as to relatives and family friends, and permanency plans for termination of parental rights. She now represents parents in all family law matters, including child abuse and neglect cases.
If you or someone you know has a question about his or her rights as they relate to child abuse and neglect, then please call the skilled family law attorneys at AMES LAW GROUP. We have substantial experience in such matters as this office focuses its practice on family law and family law related issues. For a private consultation, contact us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call our offices at 888-200-1270.
Written by: Patricia A. Ames, Esq.