Under What Circumstances Can My Parental Rights Be Terminated?

When the Connecticut court orders the termination of parental rights, the legal relationship between you and your child ceases to exist. As you can imagine, this is a serious event that has lifelong consequences. 

In nearly every case, it’s not possible to reinstate parental rights once they’ve been terminated. This isn’t the same as changing child custody or the reunification process, which involves reuniting you and your children after they’ve been removed from the home temporarily. 

Because the termination of parental rights is so serious and final, it’s essential that parents understand why this option might be pursued and the ways they can protect their and their children’s rights when a petition is filed. 

What is the Termination of Parental Rights in Connecticut?

When parental rights are terminated, the parent-child relationship legally comes to an end. When this happens, the child is legally able to be placed for adoption. A parent can voluntarily relinquish their parental rights, provided the state agrees their rights and responsibilities should be terminated. This is never a good idea and something you should discuss with a qualified attorney. 

Most parental rights are terminated involuntarily, meaning another party files a petition with the court and has to prove their case. In Connecticut, the only parties who can petition for the termination of parental rights are:

  • Either parent
  • The child’s guardian
  • A childcare or child-placing or similar DCF-approved agency official
  • The selectman of a town with a foundling child
  • A relative of a child whose parent has deserted them

If the child is over the age of 12, they must also be named as a Petitioner. 

Grounds for Termination of Parental Rights in Connecticut

For the court to grant a petition terminating parental rights, the Petitioner must be able to prove two things. First, they must demonstrate that the termination will be in the child’s best interests. Second, they must show that one of the following grounds for termination exists:

  • The child has been abandoned by the parent. 
  • There is no ongoing parent-child relationship, and it would be detrimental to the best interests of the child to allow additional time for the establishment or reestablishment of such a bond. 
  • The minor has been refused by acts of parental omission or commission, the guidance, control, or care necessary for their physical, emotional, moral, or educational well-being.
  • In a prior proceeding, the Probate or Superior Court has found that the child has been abused, neglected, or uncared for. 
  • Another child of the parent under the age of seven has been found to be abused, neglected, or uncared for and the parent’s rights were terminated with respect for that child. 
  • The parent was found to have committed sexual assault, which resulted in the conception of the minor. 
  • The parent deliberately killed or conspired to kill another of their children or was found to have intentionally assaulted another of their children, resulting in serious bodily injury. 
  • The parent has failed to rehabilitate themselves after having been found guilty of neglect or failure to care for the child or who failed to take specific steps to facilitate the return of a child who has been in DCF custody for at least 15 months. 

Contesting a Petition for Parental Termination in Connecticut

If someone tries to terminate your parental rights, you can and should contest their efforts. You have the right to mount a defense at the 30-day hearing. Most judges want to keep families united whenever possible. The court will take the following items into consideration when making its determination. 

  • The child’s age.
  • The nature, extent, and timeliness of services offered to the parent(s) by the agency to facilitate reunification efforts.
  • Whether DCF made reasonable efforts at reunification pursuant to child welfare and federal adoption law.
  • Any terms relative to existing court orders involving an agency and the parent(s) and the extent to which the parties have satisfied their requirements under the order.
  • The emotional ties and feelings the child has to their parent(s) or any other person who has had custody, care, and control of the child.
  • The extent to which the parent has been barred from maintaining a meaningful relationship with their child. And…
  • The parents attempt to maintain contact with the child and adjust to the current situation. 

These are complex legal proceedings that should not be entered into without the assistance and guidance of a seasoned attorney. 

Speak With An Experienced Attorney About Defending Your Parental Rights

If your parental rights are in jeopardy, there is no time to waste. After a petition is filed, there are just days to submit an answer and prepare for the mandatory hearing. While the Petitioner must prove their case, your complacency can serve as part of their body of evidence. 

At The Christie Law Firm, our experienced DCF attorney is dedicated to keeping families together and protecting the rights of parents and their children. Contact our office today to schedule an initial consultation so that we can go over your options. 

What is My Attorney’s Role in the Reunification Process? 

In Connecticut, similar to other states, the Department of Children and Families (DCF) is a state agency that was created to oversee services and programs involving child abuse and neglect, child welfare, foster care, and a long list of other issues. DCF is authorized to remove children from any situation in which they believe there is a danger to the child’s welfare, even if there is only a suspicion that something is wrong.

If you are a parent and your child has been removed from your home by DCF, it’s important that you understand that the law may not necessarily be on your side. At the same time, you have certain rights and a qualified attorney can place you in the best possible position during the reunification process.

How DCF Uses the Law to Its Advantage

Unfortunately, you don’t have to violate any laws for DCF to remove your children from your home. But the agency will sure make you feel as if you did.

And case managers don’t care what is in your best interests as a parent. They have the authority to do just about anything without your consent. They might even claim that you have to submit to things like a psychological evaluation or random drug screenings when a court has said no such thing.

Connecticut law grants parents involved in dependency actions the right to quick hearing dates and the right to defend their interests. Too many parents believe that a DCF investigation means they will lose their children for good. But, this isn’t the case at all. With the right plan and strong representation, you can get your children back through the reunification process.

What is the Reunification Process?

When your children have been temporarily placed in another’s care because of a DCF action, the goal is to bring get them back into the home. Called reunification, this is the legal process of getting the family safely back together, provided the courts see it as being in the child’s best interests.

Being involved with a DCF case like this can be incredibly stressful. You are sure to want your children back in the home from the minute they leave. But it may take some time and patience for this to happen. For the best chance of success, a seasoned DCF attorney can help pave the way for reunification as quickly and smoothly as possible.

What is My Attorney’s Role in the Reunification Process?

Connecticut DCF cases involve serious allegations of abuse and neglect. While the removal of your children from the home will be considered temporary, the agency can ask for the permanent termination of your parental rights, which is not something you can have reversed at a later date.

When DCF becomes involved in your life, your first instinct should be to protect your and your child’s rights in the best possible way. The earlier a DCF defense attorney can act on your behalf in an investigation, the more effective they can be in helping you keep or get back your children.

Your attorney will play some vital roles in the reunification process, making them an invaluable part of your overall legal strategy.

Compassionate Counselor 

Living without your children can be tough. You need an attorney who understands what you’re going through and who will give your case the care and attention it deserves. When you’re worried about an upcoming hearing or meeting with DCF or the court, your attorney can and should respond to your inquiries quickly and appropriately.

Fierce Advocate

Your attorney can be the strong voice that you may not have during these challenging times. You aren’t expected to know about Connecticut’s laws. But your lawyer certainly does. They will aggressively assert your rights throughout the reunification process so that you can avoid any unnecessary delays or expense and help you bring your children back home where they belong.

Voice of Reason

Finally, your attorney will be the voice of reason during what is sure to be an emotional process. They will represent your interests during hearings and make sure you understand what to expect when DCF conducts its final home interview before reunification. Your attorney will guide your words and actions so that you have the best chance for a positive case outcome.

Speak With an Experienced Connecticut DCF Attorney

If you have any questions about your Connecticut DCF matter or need help with the reunification process, we encourage you to contact The Christie Law Firm. At your initial consultation, we will ask you to outline your interactions with DCF and create a legal plan to help you accomplish your objectives. Call (860) 461-7494 or contact us online today.

Types of Guardianships

When an adult is unable to care for themselves or a child’s parents are unable to care for the child, guardianship may be necessary to provide that guidance. But there are several different types of guardianship that might be used. Here is what you need know, and some particular information about guardianships as they apply to DCF cases.

What Is Legal Guardianship?

Guardianship refers to another party being granted the legal authority to make decisions on behalf of a certain person, such as a child or parent. The “guardian” is the person the court appoints to make decisions on behalf of someone else. The “protected person” is the person over whom the guardianship has been granted by the courts.

The Purpose of Guardianship

Adults have the legal right to make their own decisions, and parents normally have the legal right to make decisions for their children. When this isn’t possible for various reasons, another party may need to step in to make these choices.

A guardianship may be needed over an adult if that person becomes incapacitated, meaning they are no longer able to care for themselves due to disease, mental illness, or mental incapacity. A guardianship may be needed over a child if the responsible parent isn’t available to make choices due to death, incapacity, or some other issue.

The Different Types of Guardianships

If you believe a person needs someone else to oversee their care, you and your attorney will need to decide which type of guardianship is appropriate. In Connecticut, there are several different types of guardianships possible:

Parents as Guardians

There is a legal presumption that both parents are to act as guardians of a minor child unless the courts state otherwise.

Temporary Guardians

A temporary guardian can be appointed by the court for no longer than a period of one year if a parent is unable to care for a child for any reason.

Permanent Guardians

If the court finds that it is in the best interests of the child, it can appoint a permanent guardian, which cannot be revoked,

Standby Guardians

A parent or guardian can designate a standby guardian of a minor to act in the event that the parent or primary guardian is unable to perform due to any specified contingencies.

Co-Guardians

If a minor doesn’t have a parent or guardian, an interested party, such as a relative, can ask the court to appoint co-guardians.

Guardian of the Estate

A guardian of the estate of a minor will control the property and assets of a minor. This is different than guardianship of a person.

How Guardianships Are Used in Connecticut DCF Cases

If you are the subject of an investigation by the Connecticut Department of Children and Families (DCF), there’s a chance that guardianship might become part of the equation. Once DCF receives notice of reported abuse or neglect, they are obligated to begin an investigation quickly.

A DCF agent will likely come to your home, request to interview your child, and even contact other interested parties such as teachers or your child’s other parent. If DCF feels that your child is in immediate danger, they can remove them from the home temporarily. DCF also has the right to petition the court for guardianship, meaning you will no longer be able to make decisions for your child.

In Connecticut DCF cases, there are three types of guardianships:

  • Straight transfer of guardianship— Guardianship is transferred to a designated party without any additional follow-up by DCF or the courts after the ruling.
  • Subsidized guardianship— The named guardian is a licensed foster care provider who receives a state subsidy to help with the child’s care.
  • Permanent guardianship— The guardian is awarded this status permanently, which generally coincides with the termination of parental rights.

As you can see, no guardianship is ideal. But you want to avoid permanent guardianship for your child. As soon as you know that DCF will be involved in your life, it’s in your best interests to speak with a knowledgeable attorney.

Speak With an Experienced Connecticut DCF and Guardianship Attorney

If you live in Connecticut and the court has ordered guardianship for your child because of a DCF investigation, it’s important that you speak with a qualified DCF lawyer as soon as possible. While this type of guardianship is meant to be temporary, DCF has the right to ask the court to terminate your parental rights if they feel there is justification.

Even though a guardian has been assigned and your child isn’t living in your home, you still retain parental rights. At this point, you should be working diligently towards reunification, which is something The Christie Law Firm can help facilitate. We specialize in handling these types of DCF cases and encourage you to reach out to us to find out how we can help. Call (860) 461-7494 or contact us online to schedule a confidential initial consultation.

What Do I Have to Do to Get My Kids Back?

Having your children removed from your home is a heart-wrenching experience for any parent. It’s tough to believe that the Department of Children and Families (DCF) and the Connecticut court have decided that your children would be better off with someone else, whether it be with a relative or in the foster care system.

Many of our law firm’s DCF dependency clients understandably want to know, “what do I have to do to get my kids back?” What makes the situation even more intolerable is that a single petition filed by DCF usually creates this injustice. Understandably, this feels like serving a jail sentence without a conviction.

What Happens Before Foster Care?

DCF cases can move quickly, which is why you should be prepared and have an experienced DCF attorney who can advocate for your interests. If your children have been removed from your home based on an emergency order, your attorney can represent you at the hearing requesting temporary custody.

There will be an evidentiary hearing where DCF must present evidence substantiating its removal of the child from your home due to abuse or neglect. You also have the opportunity to refute any evidence at that hearing.

If you don’t get your children back at this stage, they will be placed in the custody and care of DCF, which will likely place the children in foster care if you fail to win any appeals. During this time, you will remain the child’s legal guardian and maintain parental rights.

Foster Care is Not Forever

If DCF receives an order for temporary custody due to a child safety issue, your children were likely placed in another’s temporary custody. This might be with a family member or in foster care. When this happens, it can be incredibly stressful for all involved.

But foster care isn’t forever. Children do return to their families with great regularity. In fact, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that three in five children in foster care return home to their parents or other family members.

But that doesn’t mean that DCF will just hand your child back to you when you ask or make a demand. You’ll need to participate in the reunification process. If you don’t ask for reunification or fail to adhere to DCF’s requirements, the agency could seek termination of your parental rights, which is something that isn’t reversible.

What is the Reunification Process?

One of DCF’s goals is to “reunify families,” and this is accomplished through intensive assessment and case management. In short, DCF is going to tell you what they see as the problem in your home and give you an outline of the steps to fix it.

When DCF initiates an investigation, they will often ask a parent to sign a Safety Plan, also called a Service Agreement. While you should never sign anything without first speaking with an attorney, this type of contract will tell you a lot about what needs to happen for reunification.

Evaluate What Went Wrong

DCF and the courts have an obligation to act in the best interests of the child. If you want to get your children back, it’s vital that you first understand what went wrong. For example, if your children were removed from the home because it is considered an unsafe environment, what issues lead up to that and how can you avoid similar problems in the future?

Understand the Contingencies

What conditions have been placed on you as part of a parenting plan or court order? If DCF has required that you attend counseling sessions or go to substance abuse treatment, make sure you do so. Ignoring these contingencies will ensure you don’t get your children back anytime soon.

Be Patient and Compliant

While you’re waiting for your DCF and child custody case to be re-evaluated, make sure you demonstrate that you are a caring and fit parent. Exercise your right to full parenting time and visitation with your children.

Make sure that you avoid conflicts and anything that might aggravate the situation. And be as prepared as possible for the follow-up interview with DCF as part of the reunification process.

Call an Experienced Connecticut DCF Family Advocate Attorney

Few things are worse than having a child removed from the home by DCF due to allegations of abuse or neglect. If this is your situation, the first thing you should do is contact an attorney. At The Christie Law Firm, our Connecticut DCF attorney has extensive experience advocating for the rights of families and their children in child removal cases.

Our attorney understands your sense of urgency will provide you with the aggressive legal support you need during this difficult time. To learn more about the process of getting your kids back after DCF removal, call us today at 860-461-7494 or reach out to us online to schedule an appointment.

What is DCF’s Role in Reunification?

When a child has been removed from the home by the courts following an investigation by the Connecticut Department of Children and Families (DCF), that child is generally placed in a temporary custody situation, either in foster care or in the care of a relative. The preferred next step would be to reunify the child with their parent as safely and quickly as possible.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that about three in five children in foster care return home to their parents. This is an encouraging statistic for any parent who is currently facing this situation. But there is some work involved to bring children back home. Some of that work is done by DCF.

Granting Guardianship in Connecticut

When the court finds that there is sufficient cause, such as neglect or abuse, it will appoint another party as your child’s legal guardian. That guardian, whether it be another relative or a foster parent, has the power to make legal decisions on behalf of your child and to act in their best interests.

But guardianship does not legally terminate your parental rights. You are still the child’s legal parent, so they cannot be placed up for adoption. If your child has been placed with a guardian in Connecticut, you have the opportunity to get reinstated as your child’s guardian through the reunification process.

The Connecticut Reunification Process

The ideal outcome for most children placed in the foster care system is reunification. The aim of DCF agents who facilitate these cases is two-fold: to achieve the reunification of parents and children as efficiently as possible and to help ensure that the children do not re-enter the foster care system in the future.

If you believe that you are ready to start the reunification process, make sure you discuss your wishes with your attorney. Provided you’ve fulfilled the court’s requirements, your attorney can file a Motion for Reinstatement, which will start the process and get DCF involved once again.

DCF’s Role in the Reunification Process

In Connecticut, the courts oversee the reunification process, and will a final determination regarding whether a child can return to a parent’s care and custody or should be placed elsewhere. The day-to-day management of the case and the in-home investigation is handled by DCF.

When your attorney files a Motion for Reinstatement with the court, there may be several court appearances necessary. The court will ask DCF to complete an investigation before it makes a final ruling.

The DCF caseworker is going to review your entire case file from start to finish to get a full understanding of your circumstances. They will also interview all the parties involved in your case, such as your children, the other parent, and the current guardian.

As a final step, the DCF caseworker will schedule a final in-home interview with you before they create their report and make a recommendation about reunification. At the in-home interview, the caseworker will ask you questions that are relevant to your case and the care of your children. For example, if you have a substance abuse issue, where did you get treatment, and what things are you doing to maintain your sobriety? Finally, the caseworker is going to look around your home to ensure that it is safe, suitable, and ready to have your children living there.

Dealing with DCF again might seem intimidating again after such an ordeal. But i’s important to approach this process as prepared as possible. You don’t have to meet the DCF agent alone, and your attorney can help you throughout this process, which is something our office strongly recommends.

Speak with a Trusted Connecticut DCF Attorney

If your children have been placed in temporary custody by the Connecticut courts, you are understandably concerned and under a great deal of stress. The situation is not meant to be permanent, but the court does have the power to terminate your parental rights, so how you approach reunification is critical to your and your children’s future.

At The Christie Law Firm, we specialize in helping parents and children who are dealing with DCF investigations. Attorney Christie has over a decade of experience working as a DCF social worker, so has an intimate understanding of the process. When you partner with us, we will aggressively assert your rights and provide you with the guidance you need to successfully complete the reunification process.

Call (860) 461-7494 or contact us online to schedule a confidential initial consultation.

Improving Your Parenting Skills

You know that you are a good parent, and you care about what happens to your children. A large part of parenting is managing your children’s behavior through some form of discipline. Unfortunately, there are many misconceptions about disciplining children, and the wrong approach or a miscommunication could lead to the involvement of the Connecticut Department of Children and Families (DCF).

Many parents have very specific ideas about acceptable forms of discipline, many of them coming from the ways they were raised. But children respond to discipline differently, so what works for one child may not work for another. The good news is that there is help available if what you are doing isn’t working, you are unsure what to do next or DCF does become involved in your life.

Different Types of Child Discipline

The point of discipline is to have a child take responsibility for their actions and learn about consequences. This starts at home by teaching children about rules and the importance of following them. What worked for your parents may not work for you and remember there was no social media when most of today’s parents were children. Also, there were far fewer distractions in past generations.

Determining what type of discipline is right for you and your child will depend on your views on the subject, your temperament and your child’s maturity level. The age of your child and their surroundings will also influence how to best discipline them.

Here are several types of discipline methods you can use:

  1. Positive Discipline

This type of discipline is based on encouragement and praise to teach children the right way to behave.

  1. Redirection

With gentle discipline, the focus is problem prevention, where the parent will redirect the child away from misbehavior.

  1. Behavior Modification

With behavior modification, the focus is positive and negative consequences. Good behavior is rewarded, and poor behavior receives negative consequences like a time-out.

  1. Setting Boundaries

With boundary-based discipline, the parent sets clear limits and outlines the consequences for crossing boundaries, such as a loss of privileges.

  1. Emotion Coaching

With this type of discipline, the parent focuses on helping a child better understand their feelings. When children can identify and name their feelings, they can develop more appropriate ways to deal with them.

How to Get the Help You Need With Child Discipline

Day-to-day life with children can be radically different than the fanciful depiction of parenthood in the movies. According to experts, kids require consistent and firm limits for their emotional well-being. Failure to establish these limits can lead to frustration and greater trouble down the road. If you’re doing the same thing over and over and it’s just not working, it may be doing more harm than good.

But what if you aren’t sure where to start? The best thing you can do is ask for help. There are thousands of websites and books devoted to raising children and discipline. Beyond these resources, you can sign up for a parenting class to get some personalized tips. If your child has been getting into trouble outside the home, you may also wish to investigate counseling for them or for your entire family.

What Happens When DCF Gets Involved

Parents in Connecticut have the right to reasonably discipline their children. But DCF and law enforcement may get involved if discipline crosses the line to abuse or neglect. Evidence of abuse can include things like bruises, scratches, injuries, and excessive physical punishment. Neglect involves the failure to provide adequate supervision, food, medical care, clothing, and education to a child.

Connecticut DCF recommends that parents avoid using physical means to discipline children. When DCF gets involved, they will look at the age-appropriateness of the discipline as well as the child’s size and ability to understand the punishment. Whether you intend to physically or emotionally harm your child or not, there is potential for DCF to step in and file a neglect petition.

If a neglect petition is filed, DCF must prove its case, but your parental rights are at stake. You need an experienced Connecticut DCF attorney who can quickly and appropriately respond to the petition and safeguard your and your child’s interests.

Speak With a Qualified Connecticut DCF Attorney

Child discipline can be challenging and controversial. Whatever method you choose, we would advise you to make it age-appropriate and consider the state’s law so that you can avoid involvement with DCF.

If the police or DCF do become involved in your life, it’s important to understand that you still have rights as a parent and citizen. At The Christie Law Firm, our attorney focuses on defending parents who have been accused of child neglect or abuse by the Connecticut DCF. Please contact our office at (860) 461-7494 to reach out to us online to schedule an initial consultation to speak with our experienced DCF Attorney.

How Do I Prepare for My Reinstatement Interview With DCF?

The Department of Children and Families (DCF) in Connecticut exists to keep children and youth in the community safe, which often involves investigations of abuse and neglect in the home. If your minor child has been removed from your home by DCF through the juvenile court system and a child protection case, guardianship has probably been granted to another party. If you seek to be reinstated as your child’s guardian, here is what you need to know about getting ready for the reinstatement interview with DCF.

Granting Guardianship in Connecticut

When the court decides that parents can no longer care for their children, either permanently or temporarily, relatives or other interested parties can be appointed as the children’s legal guardian. When this happens, the guardian has the power to make legal decisions on behalf of the child and has a duty to act in their best interests.

Guardianship is not the same as Termination of Parental Rights, which would make the child eligible for adoption or emancipation. If your children have been placed with a guardian, it may be possible to remedy the situation after you successfully complete a reinstatement interview.

Being Reinstated as Your Child’s Legal Guardian

To be reinstated as your child’s legal guardian, you will need to petition the court and go through a process. If there are any contingencies (conditions) in place, you must first satisfy those. Examples include the completion of drug or alcohol treatment or a requirement to seek counseling. You must also file a notice of your petition on the guardian and your child’s other parent.

Part of the reinstatement process involves an evaluation by DCF to ensure you are once again fit to provide for the physical, emotional, moral, and educational needs of your children. This will include an interview and an in-home visit by DCF.

How to Prepare for Your Reinstatement Interview With DCF

If you are asking for reinstatement of your parental rights, there’s a good chance you are already familiar with DCF and may have already gone through one or more DCF interviews. When dealing with DCF, preparation is critical.

Before your interview, the DCF agent will conduct a thorough review of the case records so that they are familiar with your circumstances and the reasons why guardianship was transferred to another party. DCF will re-interview all the parties involved in the case, including the child, the guardian, the other parent, and any other interested parties.

Your interview with DCF is a vital part of this process. First, expect this interview to take place in your home. Make sure that your home is 100% ready to show a caseworker that you are prepared to bring your child back into your home. Your home should be clean and orderly. You should also have your child’s bedroom set up as if they are coming home that very day.

There will likely be a series of questions from the caseworker that are going to vary depending on the circumstances of your case and guardianship. For example, if you were accused of not sending your children to school and did not have access to transportation, how has this changed? What evidence can you present showing that you now have reliable transportation? Do you have a backup plan in place?

Remain calm and cooperative as you answer the evaluator’s questions. And be honest with your answers.

Be prepared to answer some questions related to any requirements by DCF, such as counseling or drug treatment. Have records ready that pertain to your case and your child’s schooling and medical history. Finally, be prepared with a list of questions for the evaluator and take notes to show that you are invested in the process.

The entire process could take several months to complete, so this is not something to take lightly. Another important consideration is that you don’t have to meet with a DCF agent alone and neither does your child. You have the right to qualified counsel during a DCF interview, and this is something our office strongly recommends.

Speak with an Experienced Connecticut DCF Lawyer

When the juvenile courts in Connecticut become involved in the custody of your child, we understand that there is a lot at stake. Whether you are looking to avoid a guardianship situation or want to be reinstated as your child’s legal guardian, we can help. The Christie Law Firm, LLC specializes in advocating for the interests of parents and their children in Connecticut DCF cases. Call our Hartford office today at (860) 461-7494 or reach out to us online to schedule an initial consultation.

How to Avoid Ending Up in Court With Connecticut DCF

When the Connecticut Department of Children and Families (DCF) gets involved in your life, you’re probably in for a long ordeal. This is a state agency that is known for inserting itself into the lives of families, sometimes without reason or justification.

Unfortunately, DCF has the power to interview your children, invade your privacy, and even remove children from your home. If you want to avoid ending up in court with the Connecticut DCF, here are a few things you should consider in your dealings with the agency.

How DCF Investigations Begin

DCF can open an investigation into your family if they suspect abuse or neglect. While the agency might have good intentions, the actions it takes can create long-lasting damage to children and the bonds they have with parents.

People call in anonymous reports to DCF daily. Some professionals, like teachers, police officers, and doctors, are required to report any suspicions of abuse or neglect to the agency. This can result in many reports based on little evidence and even misunderstandings of fact.

When DCF receives one of these calls, they’ll show up at your door unannounced. It’s important to understand that you don’t have to invite DCF into your home, and you can ask them to return later after you’ve had the opportunity to speak with a lawyer.

It Is Important to Understand the “Why” of Any DCF Requests

DCF has 45 days to complete its initial investigation. The DCF caseworker might visit a family multiple times during the period and make a number of requests. Some of those requests might include that you:

  • Sign a safety plan
  • Attend counseling sessions
  • Get substance abuse treatment
  • Go to parenting classes

First, you don’t have to sign a safety plan or service agreement presented to you by a DCF caseworker. While cooperating with DCF is a good idea, it’s also important that you protect your legal and parental rights. Having an attorney review any documents before you sign them is an excellent idea.

Beyond agreeing to get counseling, treatment, or any other services that DCF is requesting, it’s essential that you understand the “why” behind the request. Specifically, you should find out what DCF’s concerns are about your home situation so that you can address those instead of going down a list and checking boxes on a form. If you don’t understand the “why” behind the request, you run into the danger of a prolonged and contentious relationship with DCF and a lengthy court battle.

When Following DCF Instructions Isn’t Enough

Signing a Safety Plan or Service Agreement with DCF creates a binding legal agreement with the agency. And it’s challenging for you to alter the terms of the agreement in the future. But DCF will have no issue in asking you to agree to much more than was listed in the original plan.

It would be a mistake to believe that your relationship with the agency will be over after just 45 days. Assuming you agree to cooperate with DCF and get services, DCF can continue to ask for more. After the initial investigation period is closed, the agency can continue to visit your home weekly to check on your children and require that you submit to various services.

Provided DCF feels that abuse or neglect has occurred, the agency can file a Neglect Petition or Order for Temporary Custody of your children to remove them from the home.

Avoid Ending Up In Court With DCF Through Strong Legal Counsel

Unfortunately, once DCF gets involved in your life, they are likely to stay involved until they close their case. And this generally doesn’t happen without some pushback from the parents.

You can often avoid ending up in court by having a strong legal advocate in your corner that will assert your rights as well as diplomatically communicate with DCF caseworkers to find out what the concerns are behind the initial investigation. If you and your attorney can quickly address the underlying concerns, you may be able to avoid a request for services and a visit in front of the judge.

Speak With a Qualified Connecticut DCF Defense Attorney

If you learn that you are under investigation by DCF for suspected child abuse or neglect, or already have DCF involved in your life, you should contact our experienced Connecticut DCF defense attorney as soon as possible. At The Christie Law Firm, we have extensive experience standing up for the rights of parents throughout the Hartford area and can help you decide the best strategy for your family. Call our office today at (860) 461-7494 or contact us online to schedule a consultation.

How to Succeed When Dealing With Connecticut DCF

How to Succeed When Dealing With Connecticut DCF

Because the Connecticut Department of Children and Families (DCF) wields so much power, it would be a mistake to underestimate them. If someone has made an allegation of child abuse or neglect, you’ve probably received a visit from a DCF caseworker or likely will soon. This is just the beginning of your interactions with the agency. How you approach things from this point forward could determine the outcome of your case.

When DCF Becomes a Part of Your Life

Many DCF cases begin with pure intentions. Someone has likely tipped off the agency that a child is being mistreated or neglected. That may or may not be accurate, but DCF caseworkers are bound by law to investigate a report.

Unfortunately, some DCF cases go much further than they should. The agency has 45 days to complete its investigation. During that period, a caseworker might ask you to sign a Safety Plan and/or agree to jump through some hoops.

But your relationship with DCF isn’t likely to end once the investigation is complete. The agency can continue to make home visits for as long as they decide it is necessary.

Common Mistakes Parents Make When Dealing With DCF

There’s nothing like the rush of panic a parent feels when they open the door and find someone from DCF standing on their doorstep. It’s confusing and embarrassing. Of course, the first instinct is to get defensive because you know you love your children and are a good parent. But, if you don’t take a few deep breaths, you’re like to make some costly mistakes.

  1. Not Taking DCF Seriously 

Unfortunately, anyone can make an anonymous report to the Connecticut DCF about suspected abuse or neglect. Some reports are legitimate, but many are not. And, now more than ever, low-income families have become the target of these investigations as people confuse poverty with neglect.

Too many innocent situations can trigger an investigation. But they are all equally serious. Any DCF investigation has the potential to get your children removed from the home. So, take a DCF contact seriously.

  1. Not Understanding the Scope of an Investigation

Few people realize that the definitions of “neglect” and “abuse” used by DCF are incredibly broad. They are so broad that they can encompass a wide variety of seemingly acceptable child supervision and parenting behavior.

If you have fallen on hard times or simply have one bad day where you can’t get support to care for your children, you could be accused of neglect. And the standard that DCF uses for child abuse isn’t the same that the authorities use to file criminal charges.

  1. Not Exercising Your Rights

While you want to be cooperative with any state agency that has the power to remove your children, do not forget that you have rights. You don’t have to allow DCF into your home without a warrant. You also don’t have to consent to an interview without having an attorney present. Even when a caseworker acts like they are on your side, use caution. The best way to deal with DCF is to let them know you intend to hire an attorney that will represent your interests.

How to Succeed When Dealing With Connecticut DCF

The best way to succeed when dealing with Connecticut DCF is to hire an experienced DCF attorney and follow their advice. Seek out an attorney who has a deep understanding of Connecticut law and an extensive background in handling DCF cases. Armed with this knowledge and experience, a Connecticut DCF attorney understands the law, the agency’s procedures, and could even have an established rapport with some of the DCF personnel and applicable judges.

Your attorney is likely to give you some advice that you either don’t understand or don’t like. If you’ve hired the right law firm, your attorney is looking out for your and your children’s best interests. Share your concerns with your lawyer so that you understand the reasons for each recommendation.

An attorney with years of experience dealing with DCF will understand the consequences of certain actions or what could happen if you fail to act as they recommend. Take advantage of those hard-won lessons so that you can get the best outcome possible for your particular DCF case.

Speak With a Qualified Connecticut DCF Defense Attorney

It would be a mistake to think that simply hiring an attorney is going to fix any and all DCF issues. But the right Connecticut DCF defense attorney will sit down with you and come up with the best strategy to secure a positive case outcome.

At The Christie Law Firm, we understand that DCF intervention is stressful and frightening. No parent wants to answer to a state agency or face the prospect of losing their children, even temporarily. When you’re in this situation, we will give you the compassion and direction you need to move forward towards a successful resolution of your DCF case.

Call our Hartford office today at (860) 461-7494 or contact us online to schedule an initial consultation.

What is the Connecticut Family First Prevention Plan?

In 2018, Congress passed the landmark bipartisan Family First Prevent Services Act, representing the most significant reform in decades to federal child welfare policy. Included in the Act are historic provisions meant to keep children safely within their families and avoid the traumatic experience of a foster care situation.

The legislation emphasizes the importance of children remaining in a family setting and ensures that children are placed in the least restrictive situation possible. In the past, federal money was given to states through Title IV-E and Title IV-B of the Social Security Act to provide funds only after children were removed from the home. Now, that same funding is available for services that keep children safely at home with their families.

Family First also calls on states to drastically rethink their approach to family support and child protection. Many states have responded in kind, including ours with the Connecticut Family First Prevention Plan.

Connecticut Family First Prevention Plan

The state of Connecticut’s child welfare system believes that children are best served when they are safely in their own homes. Instead of focusing solely on surveillance and enforcement, the agency has promised to take an approach that emphasizes support for families through a community-based effort.

The Connecticut Department of Children and Families (DCF) will still be involved in identifying needs within homes. But the agency states that its priority will be to keep children in the home whenever possible by leveraging community-based organizations, healthcare, behavioral health, housing, law enforcement, social services, and other available resources to produce the best outcomes for children, families, and their communities.

Eligibility for Preventative Services

One of the primary ways the state promises to leverage the new program is by creating a system to define who is eligible for services and funding. Connecticut has defined two groups of candidates:

  1. Those already “known-to-DCF” through current or prior involvement in the system or through a call to the Careline, and:
  • Siblings of youth in foster care
  • Families with accepted Careline calls
  • Pregnant and parenting youth in foster care
  1. Referrals through a “community pathway.” These include:
  • Children of incarcerated parents
  • Trafficked youth
  • Families accepted for voluntary care management
  • Homeless or unstably housed youth and their families
  • Youth who have exited foster care
  • Youth who have chronic school attendance issues
  • Families experiencing interpersonal violence
  • Children or caregivers who have a mental health condition, a substance use disorder, or a disability that impacts parenting

Initial Prevention Services

With this new program, Connecticut has established a broad range of empirically supported resources and services. The state has engaged sister agencies, providers, and advocates to develop and implement a full array of initial prevention services. Some of those services include:

  • Functional Family Therapy– a mental health service available to youth ages 11-18 with emotional or behavioral problems and their families.
  • Brief Strategic Family Therapy– mental health, substance abuse, and parent skills services available to youth ages 6-18 who are at risk of developing, or display, problem behaviors including delinquency, conduct problems, and substance use; and their families.
  • Multisystemic Therapy– mental health and substance abuse therapy available to youth ages 12-17 with serious behavioral/emotional difficulties and their families.
  • Parent-Child Interaction Therapy– mental health therapy available to children ages 2-7 and their parents or caregivers.
  • Nurse-Family Partnership– parent skill-based therapy available to low-income, first-time mothers of children ages 0-2.

Practice Improvement Opportunities

The Family First Prevention Plan has specific practice requirements that ensure the state has a process for assessing a family’s needs, monitoring child safety, and driving progress.

  • Child-specific prevention plans– Once eligibility is confirmed, the DCF workers will engage families to assess their strengths and needs and partner with them to select the appropriate services.
  • Addressing needs and monitoring safety – The agencies involved will continue to focus on safety by addressing the needs of children and families early and focusing on prevention and addressing family safety issues.
  • Building workforce capacity – All workers will be trained using this new approach to keeping families together and providing support whenever possible.

Speak With an Experienced Connecticut DCF Defense Attorney

Even though Connecticut is following the federal government’s lead with its new Family First Prevention Plan, that doesn’t mean DCF won’t get involved in the lives of parents and their children. If you’ve been accused of child abuse or neglect, your parental rights could still be in jeopardy, and you’ll want a strong legal advocate to guide you through the investigation process.

At The Christie Law Firm, LLC, Attorney Christie has extensive knowledge of the applicable laws and procedures and years of experience working with DCF. Call our Hartford office today at (860) 461-7494 to schedule an initial consultation.