The state Division of Youth and Family Services has been accused of going to extremes at times in New Jersey. In a 7-0 decision, the New Jersey Supreme Court found DYFS lacked sufficient evidence to remove a teenager from her father and stepmother's home in 2008, and dropped the abuse and neglect judgment against her stepmother.
The Supreme Court ruled that while slapping a teenager or taking money from her paycheck to pay family bills is hardly admirable, it doesn't constitute child neglect or abuse.
An Associated Press report in the Courier Post said the girl was removed from the home after her grandfather reported the parents for taking her earnings from her part-time job and "slapping her around." A DYFS worker also found the home was without heat and authorized an emergency removal.
The father told a DYFS representative that his wife had slapped his daughter once two years earlier, and that part of his daughter's earnings went to the cable bill.
The Supreme Court found that an occasional slap, "although hardly admirable ... does not fit a common sense prohibition against 'excessive' corporal punishment." And classifying as abuse and neglect the requirement of a working-aged child to contribute to the family finances is "simply wide of the mark," Justice Jaynee LaVecchia wrote.
Back in 2009, according to the Cape May County Herald, a Woodbine father filed a civil suit against the Division of Youth and Family Services for not doing enough.
Juan Rivera Perez, the father of Caden Rivera who was killed by his mother's boyfriend Damian Garcia Rodriguez on April 22, 2009 said "the state failed to protect his two year old son".
Rodriguez, 33, of Wildwood pleaded guilty on April 29, 2010 and was sentenced to 13 years in prison.
Spokesman for the state public defenders office Tom Rosenthal said in a statement, "The court properly determined that the minor difficulties that occur within a family regarding disciplining a child, heating a home and the relationship with a grandparent fall far short of neglect or abuse of a child under New Jersey law."
The ABA Journal says the court's decision is not expected to make any difference in the current living arrangements of the young woman whose custody was at issue because she is no longer a minor.