The New Jersey Supreme Court has ruled that children can be taken into care even there is no evidence of abuse or neglect.
The case concerned a divorced mother, referred to as ‘LS’ in court documents, living in Camden County within the state. Her nine year-old twin daughters suffered from various emotional problems and learning difficulties and she approached the New Jersey Division of Child Protection and Permanency, saying they needed special care which she was unable to provide. The courts acknowledged that there had been no neglect or abuse of the children but still transferred custody of the girls to the state.
After treatment one girl returned to her mother, but custody of her sister was given to the father.
The Statewide Parent Advocacy Network of New Jersey contributed to the case with an amicus curiae (friend of the court) briefing, setting out their views. Executive Director Diana Autin told CBS Philly that the courts can place a child in care if parents cannot properly provide for children with special needs. Parents who can afford to meet the needs of children with psychological or emotional problems were unlikely to be targeted, she explained.
“You can turn to the Division [of Child Protection] for help, but it may come with a cost. It could end with an award of custody to the Division for at least six months, maybe even longer.”
“By seeking help, [the mother in this case] lost custody of one of her children.”
Struggling parents considering going to the authorities for help should seek legal advice beforehand, she advised.