Adult Protective Services Operational Standards
The Adult Protective Services (APS) Program exists to serve vulnerable adults, those adults 18 years of age and older living in the community, who lack sufficient understanding or capacity to make, communicate or carry out decisions concerning their well-being and are subject to abuse, neglect, or exploitation. APS services are provided at the local level by agencies designated by the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services, Division of Senior Affairs.
APS providers receive reports of abuse, neglect or exploitation involving adults 18 years of age or older. All reports are screened and trained APS workers respond to accepted reports by personally visiting the alleged vulnerable adult in order to evaluate the report. If the circumstances meet the APS criteria as outlined in the regulations, APS will recommend social, legal, financial, medical and/or psychiatric services deemed necessary to stabilize the situation and to protect the client from further harm.
Visits from APS staff are provided regardless of the person's income or assets. Unless the vulnerable adult qualifies for a subsidized program, services such as psychiatric evaluations or home health care may be paid for by the client. Income and assets will be considered when planning for appropriate services. Competent adults have the right to refuse recommended services unless ordered by the court. Every effort is made to maintain people in their own homes.
The Adult Protective Services Act created an intervention program to respond to reports of alleged abuse, neglect or exploitation and to work with the adult about whom the report is made to resolve the situation. The Act provides immunity from civil or criminal prosecution for persons who report abusive, neglectful or exploitative situations and to APS workers who respond to a report providing they act in good faith to benefit the adult.
Provisions of the Adult Protective Services Act
- Requirements for intensive APS staff training.
- Allows APS access to the vulnerable adult so that the report can be evaluated.
- Immunity for persons making reports.
- Immunity for APS workers following up on reports.
- Acceptance of anonymous reports.
- Confidentiality for persons reporting and those who are the subject of the report.
- Allows for legal action including guardianship.
- Allows APS access to financial, medical and social records of other agencies.
- Establishment of a statewide client registry for programmatic data.
- Establishment of a public awareness task force.
The guiding principle of the APS Program sometimes poses the most difficult ethical dilemma – the right of a competent adult to make his/her own decisions. The responsibility of APS is to the client. In the ideal situation, the protection of the vulnerable adult requires providing for his/her safety in the least restrictive setting, while simultaneously respecting his/her right to self-determination.
When interests conflict, the client is the person the APS provider is charged to serve. Concerns of other interested parties (i.e. family members, community, landlords, agencies, etc.) are understandable, but the client has the right to make his/her own decisions unless: (1) a surrogate decision maker is in place and the person lacks the capacity to make a particular decision; (2) the person is declared incompetent by a court. Other parties, or even the APS worker, may not agree with the client's choices and may offer alternatives, but the competent individual's right to choose must be respected.
Each county in New Jersey provides services that can be accessed by APS for the client. Types and availability of resources in each county may be different. Also, consumers should be advised that publicly funded programs have priorities for services and eligibility criteria. It is important to understand the resources that can be offered by a particular county.
For more information or to report suspected abuse, neglect or exploitation call 732-745-3635 or 1-800-792-8820.
Important Definitions in the Adult Protective Services Program
The following definitions are specific to the APS program and are used to guide the provision of services. Understanding these terms is essential in comprehending the APS process.
Vulnerable adult means a person 18 years of age or older who resides in a community setting and who, because of a physical or mental illness, disability or deficiency, lacks sufficient understanding or capacity to make, communicate or carry out decisions concerning his well-being and is the subject of abuse, neglect or exploitation.
Abuse means the willful infliction of physical pain, injury or mental anguish, unreasonable confinement, or the willful deprivation of services which are necessary to maintain a person's physical and mental health.
Neglect means an act or failure to act by a vulnerable adult or his/her caretaker which results in the inadequate provision of care or services necessary to maintain the physical and mental health of the vulnerable adult, and which places the vulnerable adult in a situation which can result in serious injury or which is life-threatening.
Exploitation means the act or process of illegally or improperly using a person or his/her resources for another person's profit or advantage.
Confidentiality: All records and communications pertaining to any report, evaluation, or service provided pursuant to the Adult Protective Services Act are confidential. This means that all third party information, together with the identities of reporters, witnesses and the adults allegedly in need of protective services are confidential, except disclosures which may be necessary for the county APS provider to perform his/her duties and to support any findings that may result from the evaluation of the report.
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