February 15, 2014 /24-7PressRelease/
-- Leaving a child in car while shopping may lead to child neglect finding
For parents of small children, running weekly errands can be a challenge. With little time to complete every necessary stop, it can sometimes be tempting to leave a child in the car for a brief moment to help ensure that everything is finished as quickly as possible. According to a recent decision by the New Jersey Superior Court Appellate Division, however, leaving a child in a vehicle - even one left running - could support a finding of child abuse or neglect
The New Jersey Division of Child Protection and Permanency, formerly known as the Division of Youth and Family Services, brought suit against a mother known by the pseudonym Eleanor. According to the facts of the case, on May 6, 2009, Eleanor left her 19 month old child in her car with the engine running and the windows open for about 10 minutes while she shopped at a Dollar Tree store. When she left the store, she found that a security guard had called local police.
DCP&P/DYFS began an investigation of the incident and officials determined that there was sufficient evidence to support a finding of child abuse or neglect. Investigators came to this conclusion even though there was no evidence that Eleanor's other children, who were nine and 14 years old, respectively, had been treated inappropriately. DCP&P/DYFS also never held an evidentiary hearing before making their determination.
Eleanor challenged the DCP&P/DYFS decision on multiple grounds, including questioning the decision to not have an evidentiary hearing.
On appeal, the court upheld the DCP&P/DYFS decision. According to the judges who heard the case, the facts of the case were never in dispute. Rather, the only issue was whether Eleanor's actions constituted a failure to demonstrate the adequate degree of care required by New Jersey law. Although no New Jersey court had previously found that leaving a child in a car rose to the level of abuse or neglect, the judges noted one important difference in this case: Eleanor left her vehicle running.
As a result of the decision, Eleanor will be added to New Jersey's child abuse and neglect registry. Initially, DCP&P/DYFS began proceedings to assume custody of all of Eleanor's children, but the agency has decided to halt those efforts.
If you are facing investigation by DCP&P/DYFS for child abuse and neglect, it is important to speak to an experienced attorney. An attorney knows the stakes of these investigations and can help ensure that your rights are protected.
Article provided by Maynard & Sumner, LLC
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