The New Jersey Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCPP) carries a heavy burden in presenting a case as to whether or not a parent is engaged in abuse or neglect of a child. The case of the NJDCPP v. N.B., the mother of a minor child, was recently appealed after a trial court founds that the mother had abused or neglected her twelve-year-old son. There were various issues as to the weight and credibility of the evidence presented, which the appellate court grappled with before ultimately overruling the trial court.
It all started when the biological father of D.B., who had been living with the mother at the time, filed a complaint about the child’s mother. The mother and her boyfriend had gotten into an argument, where the mother had said: “she was going to harm herself one of these days.” The law enforcement officers reported that D.B. had phoned an aunt after his mother left him alone in their shared hotel room and he was scared. The aunt came to retrieve the child and let him stay at her home for a time until the father picked him up. The police reached out to the mother to conduct a welfare check after hearing this report. N.B. agreed that there had been an argument, and she went for a drive to cool down for a few hours. She left her son at the hotel because he did not want to go for a drive. She confirmed that when she said she was going to hurt herself, it was simply a figure of speech and she did not really mean it.
In subsequent interviews, D.B. reported several other comments his mother made within the same vein, such as the mother telling her boyfriend, “since we are all here, why don’t you drive off the bridge and kill us all.” He also told the DCPP that the fights between his mom and boyfriend had been physical in the past, and he was fearful on that day that his mother would ‘go off on him’ when she got back to the hotel room. The mother denied this, as well as denied any physical altercations between herself and her boyfriend, asserting that their arguments were only ever verbal. Despite of this, the DCPP removed D.B. from his mother’s custody and placed D.B. in possession of his father. Continue reading