Expungement of Child Abuse Reports in New JerseyNew Jersey Statute 9:6-8.11 requires the Division of Child Protection and Permanency (“CPP”), formerly called the Division of Youth and Family Services (“DYFS”), to memorialize all reports of alleged child abuse in a child abuse registry. All such reports must be investigated. Upon conclusion of its investigation, the reports are assigned one of three classifications: Substantiated, not substantiated, and unfounded. Parties dissatisfied with the assigned classification can appeal.
New Jersey statutes contain no provision to expunge reports classified as substantiated or not substantiated. It is only classifications of unfounded that can be expunged. For that reason, if a report against you has been classified either as substantiated or not substantiated, a record of that classification remains permanently unless it is successfully appealed. The notice of appeal normally must be filed within forty-five days of final agency action. Do not wait, of course, for the forty-fifth day. Preparing and filing the appeal takes time!
We just used the word “normally”. In order for your name to find its way onto the registry, DCPP is required to follow certain steps. These steps include giving you notice that DCPP is seeking to place your name on the registry. The failure of the Division to comply with all of its procedural requirement is a denial of due process. This denial arguably makes any substantiated, or not substantiated, finding invalid. Thus even after the forty-days has passed, the placement on the registry may remain subject to challenge. This challenge might be in the form of a judicial appeal. It might also be in the form of an administrative appeal. Determining whether either avenue of challenge is available is, itself, a major undertaking. Note, also, that a successful challenge does not preclude DCPP from retracing its steps and seeking placement on the registry based upon the original incident.
Expungement of unfounded records is actually required. The statute that requires it is N.J.S. 9:6-8.40a. N.J.S. 9:6-8.40a requires CPP to administratively expunge those records. Further, and unlike expungement of records relating to criminal arrests and convictions, expunged CPP records are physically destroyed. Upon completion of the process, no trace of the event remains. This process is explained in detail on a page of the CPP web site.
CPP has promultated regulations that implement N.J.S. 9:6-8.40a. Those regulations are codified in the New Jersey Administrative Code at N.J.A.C. 10:129-8.2. Under N.J.A.C. 10:129-8.2, unfounded entries will be routinely expunged only for findings made after April 6, 1997. There is a three-year waiting period. Expungements of entries made on and before April 6, 1997, must be specifically requested. N.J.A.C. 10:129-8.2 specifies how those requests are to be made.
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