Lawmaker Wants To Improve DYFS Investigations [AUDIO]
The Federal Monitor overseeing efforts to improve the Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services says good progress is being made, but there's a lot more work to be done. Judith Meltzer - in testimony before the Assembly Human Services Committee - said over the past several years the Garden state has achieved notable progress - increasing the number of children being adopted and cared for by foster families, and improving health care for kids- but challenges remain, including changing the way DYFS caseworkers investigate claims of abuse and neglect.
In response, Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle, the Chairwoman of the Human Services Committee, is sponsoring legislation that's designed to help improve state investigations.
She says currently, when child protective investigators are reviewing allegations of child abuse and neglect - they must either conclude the charges are substantiated or unfounded - but her legislation creates a new "not substantiated" category - for situations when there is some indication the child may have been put in harms way, but no conclusive proof.
Huttle points out with this third option "there would be oversight and concern that there would be substantial risk of a neglect or abuse - it doesn't indicate the child is abused, but it gives that category the area of concern…in the past a lot of the cases were ruled unfounded - which would limit the investigators ability to develop an accurate record of potential cases of child abuse…by incorporating this new category and defining this, it will help investigators capture a sizable portion of abuse cases that might otherwise fall through the cracks."
She says the "Not Substantiated" category used to be an option for DYFS investigators, but "it was eliminated in 2004, and since then there have been a larger number of cases that have been ruled unfounded - and "we believe that this category should be back into the process."