Family Services Investigation Dismissed - Can It Be Expunged?
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When the departments attached to family services launch an investigation, the family is put into a file with all necessary and included details pertaining to the case. If a Department of Family and Youth Services for child and family protection retains this information even if the investigation is no longer valid or dismissed in most cases.
When the DYFS or the newly named Division of Child Protection and Permanency or DCP&P investigates any family, there are usually four possible findings available. These include substantiated, established, not established and unfounded. Typically, one of these four will issue against the family even if the case becomes invalid or dismissed. These four possibilities will determine if a child in the family needs removal based on the investigation. Additionally, the findings will determine if the agency will share the data with others and whom. This could also affect employment and the ability to travel to certain places.
The Right to Appeal
Those affected by the findings of the DCP&P may appeal a substantiated finding. However, other findings may lead to the individual seeking an expungement from his or her record. Even if the agency dismissed the investigation but found a substantiated claim against the family, it is often necessary to seek an appeal against this finding. The information and finding will stick to the record of the family or person until either time runs out based on the state regulations in these matters or the details are no longer important. It is possible through an appeal to have the conclusion removed from the records.
The Divisionís Findings
Before seeking a resolution to the findings and legal action, it is important to communicate with the Division so that the family is aware of the results of the investigation. A caseworker assigned to the claim will investigate the matter within 24 hours and contact with this person may become necessary. A letter received will inform the family of the outcome and decision of the Division. This generally arrives within 60 days after the investigation comes to a close. If any further action is necessary, the parents or legal guardians may face a lawyer or local law enforcement.
The Substantiated Finding
It is when there is evidence that child abuse or neglect took place that a substantiated finding will occur. There is a need to look for absolutely substantiating circumstances within the family in the case. These circumstances include repeat physical abuse signs, hospitalization, inappropriate sexual activity exposure and similar signs that may exist in the family. The investigation may involve checking records, examining the child or children affected, contacting healthcare facilities and conducting interviews to understand if the signs exist and how profound they are if so with the youth. In this finding, the family usually faces a loss of custody.
With few or no signs of substantial abuse, the agency will then look for any aggravating elements and mitigating factors connected to the family and circumstances. These elements may expose the abuse or neglect as more serious than in other situations. This could involve a pattern over time with lasting trauma and physical injury. Mitigating factors show that the abuse or neglect was less serious than other similar events. A history of providing for children and tending to the needs of the family would show as a strength and mitigate the damage of the investigation. When the mitigating factors are greater than the aggravating elements, the case becomes established rather than substantial.
Communicating with the Division or lawyer attached to the case could lead to an appeal of the findings. However, if the agency dismisses the case, this could lead to the family not needing to take any action. However, if the finding is still in the record of the person, it is important to have this expunged when the agency determines that no action or recourse is necessary. Hiring a lawyer or continued contact with the Divisionís lawyer is often important to pursue an expunged record. Appealing the finding or removing any case from the record is beneficial for future family situations.
Legal Support with the DYFS Investigation
Usually only the most severe of findings requires an appeal. However, changes permit the individual to seek an appeal for almost any finding. Additionally, to expunge the record of any investigation taking place, the person needs to hire a lawyer to communicate the need. This could prevent possible problems the family will face in the future.
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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.