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 our reunification attorneys, we will aggressively assert your rights and provide you with the guidance you need to successfully complete the 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

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.

What Is a DCF Neglect Petition and How Can I Fight One?

The idea of losing your child may be the worst thing imaginable. However, that is exactly what can happen if the Connecticut Department of Children and Families (DCF) files a neglect petition against you and has success in court. If you have had a DCF neglect petition filed against you, the first thing that you should know is that there are options available to you and you can fight the neglect petition; the second thing that you should know is that working with a skilled attorney who has experience in Connecticut DCF cases is key. To get the help and support you need, call The Christie Law Firm, LLC today.

What Is a DCF Neglect Petition?

When the CT Department of Children and Families has a concern about a child’s safety, welfare, or health, it can file a petition stating that it believes that the parent has abused a child, neglected a child, or is unable to meet the child’s needs. When the DCF files a neglect petition, they must then serve a copy of the petition to the family in question.

Per Connecticut General Statutes Section 46b-120, a child may be found “neglected” when they:

  • Have been abandoned;
  • Are being denied proper physical, emotional, or moral care and attention; or
  • Are living under conditions and circumstances that are considered injurious to the child. 

What to Do After Receiving a DCF Neglect Petition 

Receiving a DCF neglect petition can be extremely scary. You may be unsure of what the petition means, what your rights are, whether you will lose your child, and how to proceed. The first thing that you should do if you receive a DCF neglect petition is to call an attorney who is experienced in cases involving DCF.

After you receive the DCF neglect petition, you will have the opportunity to respond to the petition and attend a hearing, during which time the DCF will present any evidence of neglect that it has. During the hearing, you have the right to legal representation.

Consequences of a Neglect Petition 

The consequences of a neglect petition can be severe. If a neglect petition is filed, it may be filed in conjunction with a motion for temporary custody — this means that the DCF is asking the court to remove the child from the home and place the child in DCFs custody temporarily. There are usually two different ways that a neglect petition is resolved:

  • Commitment of the minor child. If the DCF has evidence that neglect is occurring, they may ask the court to remove the parent/guardian’s legal rights and to place the child in a foster home until further notice. While a parent can file a motion to revoke a commitment order, they will first need to show proof that the cause of neglect and need for commitment no longer exists.
  • Protective supervision. A much better option than having your child removed from the home, yet still an intimidating and invasive one, is for the DCF to ask the court for a period of protection supervision. If the court consents to DCF’s request, then the child can remain in the home but DCF can enter the home to check on the child and the parents will be required to comply with certain court-ordered steps and actions.

What Does the DCF Need to Prove In Order to Win Its Case? 

In order for the DCF to win its case, it must meet a relatively low burden of proof — by a preponderance of the evidence. This means that the DCF must show the court that it is more likely than not that the child is a victim of neglect. Because this is a low standard, it can make defending yourself against a DCF petition relatively challenging. For this reason, and others, working with an attorney who can gather evidence, build your claim, and represent your interests is critical. 

Why Do I Need a DCF Neglect Petition Attorney?

If a DCF neglect petition has been filed against you, the potential consequences are very serious and there is a lot on the line. You need an attorney on your side to help you to understand the process and your rights, build your defense, and show the court that your child should remain in your home.

At The Christie Law Firm, LLC, our DCF neglect petition attorney has experience working on Connecticut DCF cases and providing families like yours with the legal guidance and representation they need. To learn more about your options and to get support during this challenging time, call our firm at (860) 461-7494, send us a message online, or visit our office in person. 

What Is the DCF Central Registry and Can I Appeal My Placement?

Most states, including the state of Connecticut, have a statewide registry where listings of child neglect, abuse, and maltreatment records are maintained. In Connecticut, this registry is known as the Connecticut Department of Children and Families (DCF) Central Registry. Here is an overview of what you should know about the DCF Central Registry and what happens if your name is placed on the registry, as well as what you should know about appealing the placement.

What Is the DCF Central Registry and When Is a Name Placed on the Registry?

If you are suspected of child abuse or neglect in our state, your name can be placed on the DCF Central Registry. When a person is suspected to be a risk to a child, the DCF will conduct an investigation. At the conclusion of the investigation, the DCF may make a finding of substantiation. Substantiation means that the DCF has found that there is reasonable cause to believe that child abuse or neglect has occurred. If there is a finding of substantiation, then your name may be placed on the DCF Central Registry, but it depends on the circumstances of the case.

What Are the Consequences of a Name Being Placed on the DCF Central Registry?

If your name is added to the DCF Central Registry, the record will include your name, another identifying fact or data set (such as your address or date of birth), the date of the DCF investigation, the nature of the investigation, the DCF’s finding and the risk level of the child, as determined by the DCF.

A DCF Central Registry listing is not available to the general public and will not be accessible if a criminal background check is conducted against you. However, it will be available to the Child Protection Department. It may also be available to future employers.

Perhaps most significantly, having your name placed on the DCF Central Registry can take an emotional toll on your family. Placement on the DCF Central Registry may also impair your ability to obtain certain employment types where interaction with children is part of the job, such as a job as a nurse, teacher, coach, etc.

Can I Appeal the Placement of My Name on the DCF Central Registry? 

When the DCF makes a finding of substantiation, they must inform the identified perpetrator/parent of their finding; within that notice, the DCF is legally required to provide the parent with information about the basis for the finding, the right of the person to bring forth an administrative appeal, and the steps to take to bring forth the appeal. You have 30 days from the date of receiving the notice to file an appeal.

During the appeals hearing, you will have the opportunity to present evidence that contradicts the DCF’s evidence against you. It is especially important that you have an attorney who can represent you during this process. Your attorney can call witnesses to the stand, challenge the DCF’s evidence, and cross-examine the primary DCF investigator on your case. If your appeal is successful, then your name will not be added to the DCF Central Registry.

There is another way to remove your name from the DCF Central Registry: filing an application for removal at a later date. If you can prove that circumstances have significantly changed since your name was first placed on the registry, then you can have your name removed from the list. You will need to provide evidence of completion of rehabilitation services, a copy of your criminal record, and recommendation letters from employers, a therapist, or another trusted source. The DCF will also investigate if there have been any recent complaints brought against you/you have had a recent interaction with any child welfare agencies.

Get Help from a Trusted Attorney in Connecticut 

Having your name placed on the DCF Central Registry can be scary and intimidating, and can have a long lasting effects. You may be wondering what happens next, whether or not your child will be taken away from you, and how your future opportunities may be impacted. When you call The Christie Law Firm, LLC, our attorney can help you to appeal having your name placed on the DCF Central Registry and provide you with representation as you navigate the consequences of a DCF substantiation finding.

We have experience working on DCF cases like yours and we know how much is on the line for you and your family. For the legal support and counsel that you need, call us today at (860) 461-7494, send us a message online, or visit our law office in person for a consultation.

What Does “Family with Service Needs” Mean?

Navigating family law matters, particularly those involving children and the Connecticut Department of Children and Families (DCF) can be emotional, complex, and overwhelming. At The Christie Law Firm, LLC, our experienced family matters attorney can help you to navigate your DCF case or another juvenile matter. As you learn more about DCF cases, it is important to understand the various terms that are often used in these case types. One term with which you should become familiar is “family with service needs.” Here is an overview of what “family with service needs,” or FWSN, means as well as some of the common actions that a court may take in an FWSN case.

What Is a Family with Service Needs?

 In 2007, the Connecticut General Assembly passed a bill called, “An Act Concerning Children and Youth in Juvenile Matters.” Within this legislation, the term “family with service needs” is found and defined. According to the text of the bill, a family with service needs means a family that includes a child (under 18 years of age) who:

  • Ran away from the parental home without just cause;
  • Has engaged in indecent or immoral conduct;
  • Is, for some reason, “beyond the control” of their parent or guardian (or another custodian);
  • Has missed an excessive amount of school and, in addition to that, has been overly defiant of school rules and regulations while in school; or
  • Is at least 13 years of age and has engaged in sexual intercourse with someone who is at least 13 years of age as well and is not more than two years older than the youth.

What Happens if My Family Is Identified As a Family with Service Needs?

 The legislation mentioned above was passed on the basic premise that if a family is identified as a family with service needs, then both the family and the child of the family should be involved in services offered by the CT Department of Children and Families. These services designed to help the child and deal with the child’s unhealthy and problematic behavior.

The youth behaviors listed above may be reported to the DCF by a police officer, the child themself, the child’s parent, guardian, or foster parent, any child-caring institution, a probation officer, a school superintendent, or a commissioner of the DCF. If the child’s behaviors do indeed meet the criteria for a child and their family to be identified as an FWSN, the court may take any of the following actions:

  • Issue a warning to the child;
  • Decide to refer the child for voluntary services with the local school district (when the “family with service needs” identification is solely the result of the child missing school) or with the Department of Children and Families;
  • Order the child to remain under the care of their parent or guardian and assign a probation officer to enforce the order;
  • Place the child in the care and custody of a Department of Children and Families commissioner for up to 1.5 years, for placement in foster care; or
  • Hold a temporary custody hearing and place the child in the temporary care of an appropriate person or agency until such a hearing.

Why You Need Representation from a Skilled Connecticut Attorney

 At the law office of The Christie Law Firm, we know how scary it can be for both parents and a child to be identified as a family with service needs. While the fact is that the law provides for the coordination of resources designed to help a child, the reality is that this could mean that DCF removes a child from your home or takes other serious adverse actions against your child or your family.

The important thing to remember is that you have rights during this process. After an FWSN petition is filed, there will be a hearing. You want an attorney representing your child and your family during that hearing. The outcome of a hearing can have a major impact on your child’s and your family’s future. Your attorney can explain to you the law and your rights, and advocate for your family’s best interests throughout the process. Your attorney can also explain what happens post-hearing and what happens if there is a violation of an FWSN order.

Call The Christie Law Firm, LLC Today

 At The Christie Law Firm, our experienced family with service needs attorney understands what you are going through and what you will be facing. As you navigate the complex system and laws related to the CT Department of Children and Families, our experienced Connecticut DCF lawyer will be by your side to answer your questions and provide legal advice and representation. To learn more about your rights, call our lawyer today at (860) 461-7494 or send us a message at your convenience.