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Last week, I wrote about the sort of things you may experience when the DCPP begins an investigation. Today I’d like to help try to make sense of the four possible outcomes that make up the way a DCPP case can be closed. Since April 1st 2013 the parameters of potential findings became four tiers, “Substantiated,” ‘Established,” “Not established,” or “Unfounded.” This expansion took place to add more specificity to the findings. Accounting for the often unique situations that families find themselves in. 

  1. Substantiated – This will immediately place the offender on a central registry. It means the DCPP investigation found the existence of abuse or neglect. The existence of an ‘absolute’ condition was potentially found. Substation is warranted due to the consideration of ‘mitigating’ or ‘aggravating’ factors.
  2. Established – There is a preponderance of evidence demonstrating that the abuse or neglect took place. However it did not warrant substantiation due to aggravating or mitigating factors.
  3. Not Established – No preponderance of evidence suggests the child is suffering abuse or neglect; however there is a link that suggests the child was harmed or placed at the risk of harm. The file is not closed.
  4. Unfounded – The evidence suggests the child was not harmed or placed in the path of harm. No evidence exists to suggest that the child was abused or neglected. Unfounded claims are eligible to be expunged after three years.

The ‘mitigating’ factors mentioned above are extenuating circumstances that could help the investigators understand why the abuse took place and show that it may or may not be systemic behavior. These mitigating factors can include. If there was the existence of extraordinary, situational, or temporary stressors that caused the parent or guardian to act in an uncharacteristic abusive or neglectful manner. If a limited, minor, or negligible physical, psychological, or emotional impact of abuse or neglect on the child occurred. Or if the person who is being investigated took remedial before the investigation was concluded.

On the opposite end of the spectrum are the ‘aggravating’ factors, these also weigh heavily in the investigation. These are things that may have increased the overall severity of the abuse or neglect. Had the child been a young age, had a delayed developmental status, or other vulnerability. If there was a significant or lasting physical, psychological, or emotional impact on the child. The child’s safety requires separation of the child from the perpetrator.

Lastly, the most serious factors are the ‘absolute’ conditions which automatically substantiate the abuse or neglect. These would include the death, or near death of the child. A proven pattern which shows the accused had committed acts of neglect or abuse against a child. The accused denied a child necessary care, which either caused serious harm or created the possibility of serious harm.

The investigators weigh these situations carefully to make the best recommendation for the child. Their goal is not to take away the child from its family but placing it in the situation most likely for them to flourish. For that to happen it’s important for the family to have an experienced attorney to help explain and protect the myriad of events surrounding a DCPP/DYFS investigation.

If you are seeking representation for a family law case or are being investigated by the DCPP, call today for a free consultation 800-709-1131 or fill out a contact form on our website for a no-cost consultation. We hope to hear from you today!

Further Reading

Four Tier: A New Series of Investigative Findings