Scutari-Ruiz Bill Would Empower Child Welfare Oversight Board to Better Protect Against Abuse and Neglect

Mother giving love to her child

TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senate President Nick Scutari and Senate Majority Leader M. Teresa Ruiz that would empower the New Jersey Child Abuse and Neglect Task Force to provide more oversight of child protective services was approved by the Senate today.

 

The bill, S-2395, would give the Task Force independent control and expand the oversight authority of the panel’s subcommittee on staffing. The Task Force would be “in but not of” the Department of Children and Families. The Staffing and Oversight Review Subcommittee would conduct a review of the work of the Division of Child Protection and Permanency and make recommendations for any needed improvements.

 

“One of government’s most important responsibilities is to protect the health and safety of children,” said Senator Scutari. “This bill will help prevent abuse and neglect and facilitate the intervention of protective services when it is needed to safeguard children.”

 

Once enacted into law, the legislation will allow for the end of federal court oversight of the state’s child welfare system.

 

“New Jersey has made a lot of progress in improving protective services for children who have suffered abuse or neglect,” said Senator Ruiz. “But, continued oversight and accountability are essential. We need to ensure that families are given the help and support they need to provide safe and healthy conditions for young people.”

 

The bill would also:

 

  • Have the Task Force appoint at least 15 members to the subcommittee to review the department’s performance and report its findings and recommendations to the Governor and Legislature within one year, and annually in each subsequent year;
  • Review and assess staffing levels;

 

  • Require the Commissioner of Children and Families to ensure that no child protection worker is responsible for more than 15 cases at a time;

 

  • And, require funding to hire independent contractors and provide other resources needed to perform child protection responsibilities.

 

The Senate vote was 37-0.