Kinship Legal Guardianship Information to Caretakers Required in DCCP (DYFS) Matters
- June 14, 2013
- 1 Comment
A Division of Youth and Family Services (“DYFS”), now known as the Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCCP), Social Worker misinformed the caretakers, the child’s maternal aunt and uncle, that Kinship Legal Guardianship was only available if the child was 12 years old and older. The Appellate Court held, in New Jersey Division Of Youth And Family Services v. H.R. and N.B., that the caseworker’s legal misinformation had to be corrected and the caretaker given sufficient opportunity to consider if she wanted to pursue kinship legal guardianship or adoption after being provided with the truthful information. The matter involved a child under the age of the 12 who had lived with the aunt and uncle since May 2010 due to the birth mother and father’s drug addictions. The maternal aunt stated on the record that she would allow the child’s father to visit with the child if he demonstrated he was not using drugs and maintained his sobriety. She thought termination of the parent’s rights was a drastic step but she also believed the child needed a stable home so she was willing to abide by “DYFS” plan for termination and adoption. The New Jersey law for termination of parental rights (N.J.S.A. 30:4C-15.1(a)) requires a showing that the court has considered alternatives to termination of parental rights. One alternative to termination of parental rights is kinship legal guardianship. The Appellate Court held that, while the other three sub-parts of the law were proven by “DYFS”, such that (1)the child’s safety, health or development has been or will continue to be endangered if the parental relationship continues; (2) the parent is unwilling or unable to eliminate the harm facing the child or is unable or unwilling to provide for a safe and stable home for the child; and (3) termination will not do more harm than good, all of the criteria has to be proven by clear and convincing evidence to demonstrate that it is in the child’s best interests. Therefore, the Appellate division reversed and remanded the matter back to the trial court to establish on the record evidence that the caretakers received the correct information about the differences between adoption and kinship legal guardianship and which option they chose considering the best interests of the child. If you are a parent and DCCP has contacted you or if you have been contacted by DCCP to act as a caretaker for a child you should consult with an experienced family law attorney to protect your rights. For more information about DCCP matters, termination of parental rights, custody issues, child support, divorce, dissolution or other family law matters in New Jersey visit HeatherDarlingLawyer.com. This blog is for informational purposes only and in no way intended to replace the advice of an attorney regarding your specific matter.