Doctors, teachers, school employees, and certain other professionals who work with children are child abuse mandatory reporters in Connecticut. This means that if they suspect that a child is being abused or neglected, they have an ethical and professional obligation to report the suspicions of abuse, as well as any evidence of abuse that they have seen or collected, to the Connecticut Department of Children and Families (DCF). If a doctor makes a report of suspected abuse, it’s important that you understand your rights as a parent or guardian. Here is an overview of what you can do if a doctor who suspects child abuse contacts Connecticut DCF.
What Happens After an Allegation of Abuse or Neglect Is Made?
After the DCF receives a report of alleged abuse or neglect, a social worker will be assigned to the case and they will contact the child’s parent/guardian(s). The DCF takes a very hands-on approach in investigating allegations of abuse.
If the allegation implies that the child is at imminent risk of harm, DCF is required to make its best efforts to initiate the investigation within two hours of receiving the notice; otherwise, DCF should make its best efforts to initiate the investigation within 72 hours of receiving a notice of alleged abuse.
A DCF investigation usually involves touring the child’s home, talking with all family members, and potentially speaking to others in the community. In most cases, the DCF will also conduct a child interview. The DCF investigator is required to minimize the number of times that they interview a child.
At the conclusion of the case, DCF will either refer the family to a community provider for voluntary service if there is a finding of no significant risk for harm, or, if there is a finding of significant risk for harm, the DCF will move forward with a petition alleging that the child is being abused or neglect.
What to Do Following a Report of Abuse to the DCF
While most DCF investigations result in a referral to a local provider and a finding of no significant risk for harm, DCF investigations are not something to be taken lightly. If there has been an allegation made against you and the DCF is opening an investigation, you should take action immediately to protect your rights and your relationship with your child. Things to do include:
- Contact an attorney. Working with a skilled Connecticut DCF investigations lawyer is strongly recommended, even if the DCF hasn’t yet made a finding of risk for harm. Your attorney can guide you through your legal rights and help you to understand your options.
- Tell the social worker you want to speak with an attorney first. DCF may show up at your house unannounced before you’ve had an opportunity to consult with an attorney. If this happens, you can tell the social worker that you want to talk with an attorney first.
- Ask about the details of the allegations. DCF will protect the confidentiality of the person who made the report; however, you do deserve to know why DCF is investigating you. The more information you have, the better you’ll be able to defend yourself if necessary.
- Start thinking about evidence. It’s important to start preparing evidence that you might have that refutes allegations of abuse. For example, you may want to think about family and friends who can serve as witnesses if your case moves into a hearing, or video footage that explains a child’s injuries, or other documentary evidence that can support your case.
- It’s important that you cooperate with DCF and remain polite and professional throughout all interactions, regardless of how frustrating the investigation may be. DCF will do whatever it needs to do to draft its report and issue its findings—if you hinder this process, it will only reflect poorly on you and may delay the process. If you have questions about what cooperation looks like, connect with your attorney.
Call Our DCF Investigations Attorney Directly Today
If you have been accused of child abuse or neglect and a mandatory reporter has filed a complaint with the DCF against you, DCF will launch an investigation into the allegations. When this happens, it’s important to seek legal counsel, stay calm, and review your rights and the process. At the office of The Christie Law Firm, our DCF investigations attorney provides representation and defense during DCF cases. To learn more about what to do if a doctor reports you to the DCF, please contact our lawyer directly online, in person, or by phone at 860-461-7494.