New Jersey law requires the Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS) to keep records of the names of people who have been found to have abused or neglected children. DYFS keeps these records in a database known as the child abuse registry.
Findings of Abuse and Neglect
People who are named in the child abuse registry have either been investigated by DYFS or appeared before a court and found to have abused or neglected children.
- DYFS finding of abuse or neglect. If DYFS receives information about possible child abuse or neglect (called a referral), the agency is required by law to investigate. After investigating the referral, DYFS makes a finding that the abuse or neglect occurred, called substantiating the referral, or a finding that it did not occur. If the referral is substantiated, DYFS will notify the person against whom they substantiated the abuse or neglect and place his or her name on the child abuse registry.
- Court finding of abuse or neglect. If a judge finds at a fact-finding trial as a part of a child abuse or neglect case that a person has abused or neglected a child, that person’s name may also be entered on the child abuse registry. Sometimes a person will formally admit to (stipulate) abuse or neglect without a trial. This admission will also probably result in the person’s name being entered into the child abuse registry.
Can I be denied a job if I am listed in the child abuse registry?
The child abuse registry is confidential. There are exceptions to this general rule of confidentiality, however. Employers in certain kinds of operations or businesses are required by law to check the child abuse registry before hiring a new employee. The registry must also be reviewed before certain types of licenses may be renewed.
Employers hiring employees who must work with children, the elderly, or other vulnerable populations may require a registry check. If someone who is thinking of hiring you discovers that your name is on the child abuse registry, you may not be hired for a job. If you are employed and your employer discovers that your name is on the registry, you may be fired from your job.
Having your name on the child abuse registry probably will also keep you from being a relative resource, foster parent, or adoptive parent. The only way to have your name taken off the child abuse registry is to appeal the finding of abuse or neglect. If you do not appeal the finding of abuse or neglect, your name will remain on the child abuse registry permanently.
How do I get my name taken off the child abuse registry?
At the end of a DYFS investigation or where abuse or neglect is substantiated, you should receive notice that your name is being entered on the child abuse registry. The notice will tell you how to appeal the DYFS substantiation and the time limit for filing the appeal. You should follow the instructions in the letter and make your request on time. If you do not file your request on time or do not follow through with the appeal, your name will remain on the child abuse registry.
If a judge finds during a court case that you abused or neglected a child, you have a limited time to appeal the judge’s decision. You should talk to your lawyer as soon as possible about appealing the decision. Also be sure to talk to your lawyer before you stipulate to (admit to) having abused or neglected a child as a part of a court case. If you do this, you may not appeal the stipulation and your name will remain on the registry.
Family Representation Project
For more information, contact Legal Services of New Jersey’s Family Representation Project by calling LSNJ-LAW™, Legal Services of New Jersey’s statewide, toll-free legal hotline, at 1-888-LSNJ–LAW (1-888-576-5529), Monday through Friday between 8:00 a.m. and 5:30 p.m.
This article originally appeared in the October 2009 issue of Looking Out for Your Legal Rights®.
This information last reviewed 10/28/11