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Independent Review of New Jersey Child Abuse Investigations Reveals Mixed Results

State Needs to Ensure Key Interviews are Conducted and Critical Information is Obtained

NEWARK, NJ — While the vast majority of child abuse and neglect investigations in New Jersey have been thorough, comprehensive, and of good quality, the state is still struggling in several areas critical to ensuring children are protected from unsafe or inappropriate situations, according to a new case record review conducted as a part of the sweeping court-ordered reform effort spurred by Children’s Rights.

Today’s (PDF) — issued by the court-appointed monitor charged with tracking the Department of Children and Families’ (DCF) reform efforts — lays out several areas DCF must improve to make sure child abuse and neglect investigations for children living at home are handled properly, such as ensuring investigators interview all the individuals and professionals critical to an investigation. For example, the case review found that investigators failed to interview child care providers in 65 percent of the instances when such an interview was needed.

“Over the last several years, New Jersey has placed a high priority on improving the safety of children who come in contact with the state child welfare system,” said Susan Lambiase, associate director for Children’s Rights. “However, this report reveals some serious concerns. For example, at times casework supervisors are approving investigations that are incomplete or not done properly.

“The state must swiftly ensure that supervisors are being appropriately trained to ensure investigations are completed, and that they are held accountable if they sign off on deficient investigations,” said Lambiase.

Today’s case record review, which examined 242 investigations from October 2010, highlights many positive results, including:

In addition to the positive results listed in this study, the independent monitor noted several areas that require additional improvement:

This review was not intended to address the missteps revealed after the tragic death of 8-year-old Christiana Glenn in May 2011, which raised serious concerns after a call to the state’s child abuse hotline only nine days before Christiana’s death went uninvestigated. However, Children’s Rights expects DCF will fulfill its promise to swiftly address recommendations set out in the state’s own internal review.

“Strengthening quality case practice can be a challenging process, but reforming any child welfare system is impossible without doing so,” said Lambiase. “New Jersey remains on the right path, but it must take today’s report as a reminder that there are still many children waiting on the promises of this reform effort.”

Children’s Rights filed the child welfare reform class action now known as Charlie and Nadine H. v. Christie in 1999, with co-counsel Drinker Biddle & Reath. In 2006, after a previous settlement agreement failed to yield positive results, Children’s Rights and co-counsel reached a new agreement with state officials, mandating sweeping reforms and resulting in DCF’s creation.

The complete monitoring report and more information on Children’s Rights’ campaign to reform New Jersey’s child welfare system can be found at