DCF Investigations of a School

The term “abuse” in a school setting has been traditionally associated with sexual misconduct. But
abuse can take several different forms. Child abuse can be categorized as sexual abuse, physical
abuse, and child neglect. When these happen at a school, the Connecticut Department of Children
and Families (DCF) may become involved.

DCF investigations of a school aren’t nearly as common as those directly involving parents. But any
abuse investigations are something you want to take seriously, whether you are an administrator, an
accused educator, or the parent of a child who has been abused.

What is Institutional Abuse and Neglect?

Institutional abuse and neglect take place outside the home in private settings or in the community.
This type of abuse or neglect is also known as “extra-familial or “out-of-home” abuse or neglect. It
typically involves a child and an adult in a supervisory role, like a teacher, volunteer, or caregiver.
Unfortunately, studies show that abused and neglected children are at higher risk for lower academic
achievement. Children who endure these issues are much more likely to drop out of school early and
suffer negative economic and psychosocial consequences.

The Role of DCF in Connecticut and Its Schools

The Connecticut DCF works together with families and communities “to improve child safety, ensure
that more children have permanent families, and advance the overall well-being of children.” DCF’s
primary role is to protect children who are being abused or neglected through various initiatives.
Many contacts with DCF take place in the child’s home. But some of them take place outside the
home, such as in schools. This makes sense because it is where children spend the majority of their
time outside the home. While they are supposed to be in the care of trained, trusted, and caring
adults, this doesn’t always happen.

In 2011, the state of Connecticut passed a new law (Public Act 11-93), which imposes new
requirements intended to protect children from abuse by school employees. This law was in
response to a report issued in 2010 from the Attorney General and the Office of the Child Advocate.
The report, titled “Protecting Our Children: Improving Protections for Children When Allegations Are
Made that School System Personnel Abuse or Neglect Children,” was issued after a lengthy

The new law was meant to address weaknesses in a system that is intended to protect children from
abuse and neglect. According to the investigation results, the State Department of Education
previously had the authority to check the DCF registry before issuing teacher and administrator
licenses. But the department and many schools weren’t checking the registry.

The new law requires that this check take place. It also requires that both schools and the
Department of Education keep track of allegations of abuse or neglect against teachers or
administrators. In the past, school districts didn’t always cooperate with DCF investigations. This law
makes full cooperation a requirement and outlines mandated reporting situations.

When DCF Investigates a School in Connecticut

In early 2020, the Connecticut DCF created two new units dedicated to the investigation of DCF
reports concerning school employees in their professional capacity with students. These special
units consist of ten social workers in total, who are in charge of investigating allegations against
school employees with a mandate to complete investigations in 33 business days.
Under this relatively new program, DCF will communicate the results of any investigations it
undertakes with the Superintendent of the particular school district and the State Department of

As a teacher or school administrator, it’s important to take any contact from DCF seriously, whether
you’ve done something wrong or not. All too often, it’s easy to think that DCF won’t find anything in
their investigation. Maybe if you just explain what happened, they will understand and close their

Unfortunately, this rarely happens. It’s part of a DCF investigator’s job to make the subject of an
investigation feel comfortable, so they disclose information and potentially admit wrongdoing. If DCF
does decide to enter supported findings of abuse or neglect against you or the school, this can be a
precursor to civil and criminal troubles in your future.

To avoid long-term involvement with DCF, it’s essential to safeguard and exercise your rights. A
seasoned DCF attorney can guide you through this process.

Speak With an Experienced Connecticut DCF Defense Attorney

A DCF investigation of your school is serious. But an allegation is not proof of wrongdoing. If you or
your school have been notified of a DCF investigation, protecting your rights is vital.

Attorney Christie with The Christie Law Firm has extensive experience handling Connecticut DCF
cases. She was recently a prosecutor in the Tolland Judicial District and has successfully negotiated
over 1,000 cases for clients. Contact our office today to schedule an initial consultation to learn more
about your options.

What is Subsidized Guardianship?

When a parent is unable to care for their children, guardianship may be necessary to deliver that care and guidance. Guardianship refers to another party being granted the legal authority to make decisions on behalf of someone else, such as a child. The court appoints the “guardian” as the decision-maker for the “protected person,” who may be a child.

There are different types of guardianships under the law. One type that you might find used in Connecticut is called “subsidized guardianship.” Here is what that type of guardianship entails, some of its benefits, and who qualifies to be appointed.

When Guardianship Can Become Necessary with DCF Involvement

Parents have the legal right to make decisions for their children. That is until the court says they don’t. In some cases, an adult may not be able to make decisions for their child temporarily due to physical limitations, mental illness, substance abuse, or other serious issues.

When there is a question of parental capacity or abuse or neglect, the Connecticut Department of Children and Families (DCF) may become involved. If you become the subject of a DCF investigation, the agency may recommend guardianship if they believe that your child is in danger in the home. Once a child is removed from the home, DCF may petition the court for guardianship, meaning someone else will be appointed to make decisions for your child.

What is Subsidized Guardianship?

Subsidized guardianship is a placement option for children placed in foster care. Eligible caregivers become the child’s legal guardian and are able to consent to their needs relative to healthcare, school activities, and basic scheduling. Under subsidized guardianship, the guardian receives payment from the state to help them meet the child’s needs.

Who Qualifies for Guardianship Subsidies?

According to Connecticut law, relative caregivers are permitted to apply for guardianship subsidy. To qualify, the child must be under the age of 18 and be living with a caregiver who has been licensed for at least six months. DCF must conduct a thorough assessment of the child’s situation and recommend guardianship with the relative in question.

State law also requires that subsidies be provided to relative caregivers who have been in certified or foster care for at least 18 months. But the agency can offer subsidies if the child has been in this situation for at least six months.

The Benefits of Subsidized Guardianship

While having someone get paid to care for your child might seem unfair, there are some benefits to subsidized guardianship. In many cases, a family member who would otherwise not be able to afford to take in your child will now be able to take on the responsibility, increasing the overall family permanence.

There’s a common misconception that subsidized guardianship undermines reunification efforts by parents. In fact, this isn’t the case. In Wisconsin, Tennessee, and Illinois, reunification rates were not significantly different in cases where subsidized guardianship was offered versus where it wasn’t.

Types of Subsidies Available to Guardians in Connecticut

Connecticut statutes provide for the payment of three different types of guardianship subsidies:

  • Monthly subsidy — The monthly subsidy is equal to the prevailing foster care rate established by DCF, which is applicable to the child’s special needs and age less the child’s income and assets.
  • Special needs subsidy — A special needs subsidy is a one-time payment of not more than $2,000 paid to the child’s guardian for expenses the guardian incurs for which there are no other resources, such as state, federal, or private sources to pay for expenses. Some examples of expenses permitted under this policy include legal fees from the guardianship case, out-of-state travel expenses to attend court hearings, and medical or psychological exams.
  • Medical subsidy — Children who may or may not have private health insurance could be eligible for state Medicaid benefits through a medical subsidy. The guardian will be responsible for reapplying for this benefit annually.

Contact an Experienced DCF Defense Attorney

If you live in Connecticut and the state has ordered guardianship of your child due to a DCF investigation, it’s important that you understand and protect your rights. While a subsidized guardianship might help keep your child with a close family member and assist with reunification, DCF has the right to petition the court to terminate your parental rights at any point if they feel there is justification.

It’s important to understand that a guardianship situation does not end your parental rights. Even if a guardian has been appointed, you should be working diligently toward reunification, which can be a complex and confusing process. We can help.

The Christie Law firm specializes in dealing with DCF cases throughout Connecticut. We understand how DCF operates and have extensive experience protecting parents and children who have become wrapped up in this system. Call (860) 461-7494 or contact us online to schedule a confidential initial consultation.

Adopting a Special Needs Child in Connecticut – Subsidized Adoptions

According to the National Adoption Center, there are over 130,000 children with “special needs” in this country awaiting permanent homes. In the context of child welfare, foster care, and adoption, “special needs” refers not only to children with disabilities but also to those whose risk factors for disability, race, ethnic, age, or other characteristics make them more challenging to place.

Adoption is a gift for both the child and their adoptive family. But, it is an extremely important decision that can create financial hardships, particularly if a child has special needs. In the state of Connecticut, a child may be eligible for a subsidy through the state if they qualify.

What is Connecticut’s Adoption Subsidy Program?

Children with special needs who are adopted may qualify for adoption assistance or subsidies. These are programs under the Federal Title IV-E (part of the Social Security Act) as well as from the state itself.

In Connecticut, the adoption assistance program is run entirely by the state, but 50% of it is funded by the Federal Title IV-E program. The State of Connecticut outlines the process for how families can qualify for and collect these subsidies.

Who is Eligible for a Subsidized Adoption in Connecticut?

Special needs children are not only more difficult to place in adoptive homes. The costs of caring for these children are also sometimes higher than with other children. Connecticut defines special needs children as those who meet one or more of the following conditions:

  • Physical or mental disability
  • Severe emotional maladjustment
  • Over age eight
  • Age of two or over and having ethnic or racial factors presenting barriers to adoption
  • High risk of physical or mental disability
  • Part of a sibling group that should be placed together

If a child is being adopted from a private agency, parents should determine if there is eligibility for subsidies or assistance before the adoption is finalized.

What is the Amount of the Benefit?

Children with special needs who are adopted in Connecticut may qualify for subsidies, which are paid to adoptive families to help defray expenses related to the child’s need for ongoing treatment, therapy, or to cover one-time expenses.

In Connecticut, the current per diem (daily) adoption assistance rate is equal to 100% of the USDA’s estimate of the cost of raising a child. The rate varies based on the age of the child:

  • Ages 0-5:    $25.99 per diem
  • Ages 6-11:  $26.29 per diem
  • Ages 12-18 $28.52 per diem

A child diagnosed with a “medically complex” condition will receive assistance in line with the care and attention they require up to a maximum of $47.10 per diem. These children must meet specific requirements, and their cases are reviewed annually.

Any financial subsidy you receive for your child is not considered income for tax purposes. In the event this changes, please verify this information on the IRS website.

There are other nonrecurring benefits available as well. These include:

  • Up to $750 per child for expenses directly related to adoption
  • Up to one year of childcare expenses paid through Care4Kids

According to Connecticut law, regular financial subsidies end on the child’s 18th birthday. But, if a child was adopted after age 16, the financial subsidy can continue until age 21 as long as the child is enrolled and attending a post-secondary educational program on a full-time basis.

How to Apply for a Subsidized Adoption

The Department of Children and Families (DCF) administers Connecticut’s adoption subsidy program. The prospective adoptive family and the DCF social worker should negotiate the adoption assistance agreement before the adoption is finalized. The DCF Central Office will make a final determination about assistance.

Upon finalization of the adoption by the Probate Court, DCF will begin making monthly subsidy payments to the family. These checks are generally issued on the 15th of each month.

DCF will conduct an annual review of every case to confirm the continuing need for a subsidy. Adoptive parents will need to submit a sworn statement indicating that the special need continues to exist, and that the child remains a legal dependent. The Adoption Subsidy Review Board has the option to continue, reduce, or terminate payments, but major changes won’t be made without the benefit of a hearing.

Get Help from An Experienced Connecticut Adoption Attorney

Adoption is an emotional and complex process. It’s certainly not something you should approach without a thorough understanding of your rights and obligations under the law. As a trusted and knowledgeable adoption attorney, it is my honor to help bring families and children together using strong legal agreements. Contact our Hartford office today to learn more about how we can assist you with a special needs adoption in Connecticut. Our office number is (860) 461-7494.

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.

The Clarity of 2020

In December 2019, I was excited about the year 2020. It was so cool, as 20/20 is a designation for perfect vision.  I knew it was going to a unique year and I wanted to be sure to make it a great one. I even made a joke that I will see clearly in 2020!  Who knew how solemn a truth that would be?

The year 2020 started well.  In January I was planful and had a lot of hope about what kind of year I was going to have.  Then came March 2020, and I did not see COVID coming or its impact.   I started out in denial by thinking, “why are they making such a big deal of this?” and “what do you mean, you can’t find toilet paper?!” Honestly, I figured it would be a couple of weeks and then back to life as usual.  Little did I know that a couple of weeks would turn into many months.

It is now January 2021, and one thing is for sure, life as usual, maybe gone for good.  At one point, I teased people who wore masks in public. Now, I am one of those people.  Get-togethers were on a screen. Holidays were spent over the phone versus in person.  How in the world are we going to get through this is the question?  This is where the 20/20 clarity started to come true.  I saw more clearly that what I needed to get through life were God and my loved ones.

The loss of life due to COVID is not just a number. People have lost parents, children, friends, extended family, co-workers, and the list goes on. Literally, COVID has taken the lives of so many in a short period of time.  I too lost friends in this season and much of it was painful.  I saw that the people I did have in my life were a blessing that I should not take for granted.  My faith in God and His plan for my life now had taken front and center stage for me.  Why – because it was the one thing I knew I could count on in an ever-changing world.

It takes faith to think it is worth getting and living each day not knowing exactly how the future plays out.  It takes faith to realize that the people in our lives now, would appreciate it because we don’t know what tomorrow will bring.  It takes faith to believe God has a plan and that plan will be for our good.

The clarity of 2020 will not be wasted on me.  Life is truly too short not to appreciate every blessing that we have, especially the blessing of loved ones.  I am not sure what 2021 will look like but I am sure I look forward to seeing more of what life has taught me.

Our Why

It took years to get here, but I am glad I am finally here. Finding myself, my worth, and why I do what I do was always not clear. I suspect the same for many people. However, arriving at why we do what we do is important, no matter how long it takes, is worth it.

As a child, we moved around a lot! The song by the Temptations “Papa Was a Rolling Stone” made sense to me. By the time I was in high school, I lived in three different states, attended several different schools, and almost lost track of the different homes where we lived. Our family was always in search of better, and better often meant a move. Yet, in all of this instability, I actually had stability. No matter where we lived I knew my mother would be home. I knew that Monday night dinner was always Sunday’s leftover, Friday was pizza night, and Saturday was soup day. I knew that there was no tv during the school week and Sundays we went to church. I had incredible stability despite the many changes in location. My mother provided the stability in every home we lived in and that made all the difference in the world. Locations changed but Momie stayed the same.

As an adult, I find that often quote my mother and recall the valuable lessons she taught me. My work ethic comes from her and she instilled in us (whether we wanted it or not) a spirit of excellence. I thought she was so strict and at times mean. Little did I know that she was giving us what we needed to be the responsible and hardworking adults we are now. I now realize how important a parent is for every child. If you noticed, I haven’t mentioned my dad. Unfortunately, he wasn’t around for most of childhood and it remains the same today. Yet, his very absence played a significant role in my life, and it took time to heal from that missing part of my life. No matter what, parents make a difference for every child. They can be the child’s greatest cheerleader or that child’s greatest nemeses.

Imagine a world where parents are supported in such a way that they are in the best position to love and care for their children. A world where parents learn from their mistakes and change so that they can be the finest parent possible to their children. A world were we give each child the opportunity to grow up with stability that comes from parents who put their needs first. At the Christie Law Firm, we are creating such a world. We are helping children, by helping their parents. We are making families stronger by focusing on what is best for the child and aiding parents to make that happen. What is best for any child are parents who love, and care for them, and provide the best life they can.

When you talk with us at The Christie Law Firm, LLC, we will ask about your kids. We want to know how they are doing. We will partner with you with them in mind. We will help you find solutions that make your families stronger, and give your kids what they deserve, great parents. Please note I didn’t say, perfect parents. However, you are great if you show up every day for your children, putting their needs above your own, and giving them a chance to succeed.

I will be forever grateful to my mother for the sacrifices she made to raise us. We moved around a lot, and I say it has made me able to adjust quickly to change. Yet, her stable presence in our lives, the lessons, and the direction she provided me has had more impact on who I am today than those relocations. Kids need their parents. Your kids need you. We can’t let them down and The Christie Law Firm is here to help.

Racist Kids

I know that I caught your attention. The mere notion of the term “racist kids” is tough for us to imagine. Yet consider this: racism exists, but it does not perpetuate itself. We help to keep it alive by teaching racism to children by our thoughts, words, and deeds. We are not born racist, but we can be taught to be racist.

“I don’t want black people on my lawn.” I was about 8 years old when I was told we could not cross our neighbor’s yard to get to the other part of the neighborhood. I remember thinking for the first time, “I am black?” My mother taught us that the only identity we needed to know was that we were her kids. This meant that we are to act accordingly. That day, I realized that what I looked like mattered to others for the first time in my life. Over time, it taught me to do the same for others. I began to judge people by their appearance. If they looked like me, it was safe, if they didn’t, beware. The older I got, the worse it became, especially after learning of slavery and other racial atrocities. I began to be hostile in my thoughts towards others who didn’t look like me. I was racist without ever intending to be so. I thank God that this behavior did not last. What changed? My understanding that God is not racist, and He loves us all. Heaven does not have a “black section.” If I am to be a child of God, I needed to see the beauty of all of his creation, not just my own.

This new understanding was tested when I was a social worker for DCF. I met “Jack” when I assigned to his case after he and his brothers were removed from their parents’ care. I learned that his father didn’t like black people, but I never thought about what impact on his father’s view would have on Jack. Until one day, Jack said to me, “I don’t like black people.” I paused, realized that he couldn’t fully appreciate what he was speaking at the moment as it was only six years old. My thoughts, “Do I treat him poorly and write him off as a racist, or do I take the opportunity to undo the damage that had been done?” That day, I decided to show Jack black people were ok. I spent time with Jack and showed him nothing but kindness. We didn’t talk about race or racism. We just learned more about each other. Taking him for ice cream also helped! Over time, Jack came to like me a great deal. He would often greet me with a hug. I later learned that his first “girlfriend” in second grade, was a little girl of color. Jack wasn’t racist, he was taught by his father to be racist, and that needed to be undone.

Parents have the most significant impact on their children. We can pass on our values and beliefs to the next generation easily. They are watching us and learning from us. Are we teaching them love or teaching them to hate? Are we teaching tolerance or discrimination? Are we teaching them the value of every human life or that some people are dispensable? Whatever the lesson, we are responsible for changing the fabric of society, starting with our children. “I believe the children are our future. Teach them well and let them lead the way.” – Whitney Houston.

We can change things, one child, at a time.

5 Tips on Dealing with COVID-19 and Co-Parenting

On September 11, 2001, I stood and watched on TV as the second plane flew into one of the Twin Towers. We were sent home from work. I thought, “Are we under attack? Are we at war? Are we safe?” The days and months that ensued changed the fabric of our society. Fear became the norm and impacted many of our decisions. I thought that had to be the worse time of our lives, then COVID-19 happened.

We are now living in unprecedented times. We don’t fear the next terrorist attack…as much. We now fear a cough or a sneeze from another person. Although more people have survived having the COVID-19 virus, many have died. It is not possible to predict with certainty how you would survive having the virus. As a result, we are protective of ourselves and our loved ones, especially our children. This makes co-parenting very difficult in times like these. If the kids are in the house, you can have more control in preventing their exposure to the virus. Once they leave to visit the other parent, you no longer have that control. However, we cannot allow fear to rule the day. I truly believe “this too shall pass.” Yet, how you handle co-parenting can have a lasting impact on the future custody of your children.

In this article, we will go over some tips around co-parenting during this pandemic. I realize this is easier said than done. However, when we return to life, as usual, the Courts will look at how parents dealt with ensuring each party spent time with the child or children. In a time when we see so many people die from this virus, and you have no way of knowing who is next, you want to be sure to spend as much time loving each other as possible. We need to keep that in mind not only for ourselves but for the other parent as well. As you read these tips, try to put yourself in the other parents’ shoes. How would you want to be treated? What would be fair to you? After you have done that, then you can make decisions that are best for the children, which is the determining factor for the Court.

Tip 1: Maintain safety

There are articles, Facebook posts, and news reports every single day on how to stay safe during this crisis. I prefer to rely on the CDC for information – less propaganda! (See https://www.cdc.gov/). There you can learn information as to how to reduce the likelihood of being exposed to the virus. We should follow it and make sure that everyone in the house supports it as well. Now is not the time to allow our teens or anyone the freedom to “just be themselves.” Be vigilant, and we can improve the chances of not contracting the virus.

Tip 2: Talk openly and honestly with your children

There is no way to shield your children from what is happening in society. They see it as soon as they get on the internet on their way to navigating to their schoolwork. Do not assume that just because they are children, they do not have their thoughts and feelings about what is happening. Take the time to talk to them about what is happening and why you are taking the necessary precautions. This may help them to realize for themselves why they need to stay safe. Also, this will help them to be vigilant when they need to leave the house to visit with the other parent. They may be the ones to insist on the other parent taking precautions in the event the other parent is not as careful as you have been in your home.

Tip 3: Follow court orders

Admittedly, this can be very difficult to do under these circumstances. You have no way of knowing how safe the other parent is at any given time. This is why regularly talking to the other parent will help. You can’t decide in the vacuum. You need information. At some point, the Courts will open up, and the other parent may choose to file a motion for contempt, claiming you did not allow visits with the children. Your response can’t only be “there was a pandemic, and I wanted to keep the kids safe.” You need to have facts around why you stopped the visitation. Perhaps, the other parent wasn’t practicing social distancing as evidenced by the party pictures posted on Facebook or that he or she confirmed that they are sick. The Court takes their orders very seriously. Violating a court order can cost you, and so you need to be sure you are standing on solid facts before deciding to violate an order.

Tip 4: Find ways to compromise

Assume for the time being that the other parent cares as much about the children as you do. They may show it differently, but for now, give them the benefit of the doubt. Talk to them about ways you both can spend time with the children and keep them safe at the same time. Perhaps, for the time being, the visits are at your home so that you can watch as they come in and ensure they have washed their hands before being with the children. However, if you can’t be in the same room with each other, perhaps you can meet more often than the regular schedule but for less time somewhere in the community. You may agree upon a third party to host the parenting time because you can rely on that person to keep everyone safe. No matter what you do, enter the conversation ready to compromise, which often means giving up something. This will help in finding a means to allow the other parent time with kids and keep the kids safe. I am in no way suggesting you let the kids enter into an environment that is not safe for them. However, you can’t just default to “no” without first trying to find a way to make it work.

Tip 5: Document, document, document

You may be the parent who is denied the visit despite all of your efforts to keep safe, compromise with the other parent, and follow court orders. In that instance, I recommend that you document, document, document! In Connecticut, the courts are closed to any court activity that does not fall into the Priority 1 category. This category includes only specific types of cases such as

  • Criminal arraignments of defendants held in lieu of bond
  • All arraignments involving domestic violence cases;
    • Family orders of relief from abuse;
    • Civil orders of relief from abuse
    • Ex-parte motions
    • Orders of temporary custody (Juvenile Matters)
    • Orders to appear (Juvenile Matters)
    • Emergency ex-parte order of temporary custody
    • Juvenile detention operations for detainees held for juvenile Court

(See https://jud.ct.gov/COVID19.htm) for more details. Regrettably, motions around modifying visitation are not in this category. Moreover, there is no guarantee that if you file a motion emergency ex-parte order for temporary custody around obtaining visitation, it will be granted. Trust me, I tried! When the Courts reopen, they will review cases in which there was a violation of court-ordered visitation. You need to be prepared to lay out the details of the dates and times that you were not allowed visitation with your children. Do not wait until standing before a Judge to try to remember the facts. Keep a journal – whether you use a paper calendar or notes on your phone. Be sure to keep a good record of your efforts to see the kids and when the visit was denied. As I noted earlier, the Courts do not take violations of court orders lightly. The other parent will have to justify their refusal, and if they can’t, a court could rule against them. A Court can only do so when it has facts upon which it can rely. So again, I say, document, document, document.

COVID-19 will change our society. Time will tell the impact it will have on how we live our lives and conduct our business. One thing that will not change is that children need to have a relationship with both of their parents. If a Court finds that contact with a parent is not in the child’s best interest, then and only then, can contact be denied. In the meantime, we have to find a way to make parenting time with each parent happen even in a pandemic. Do you very best to find a way to keep the kids safe while ensuring that the other parent can spend time with the children.

One thing that COVID-19 has proven is we can’t predict who and how it will impact. Therefore, we need to spend as much time with our loved ones in any way we can. We will overcome this pandemic. We will survive, and life will go on. How we treat each other during this time is just as important. Don’t allow fear to rule the day.

Grandparents Raising Children

When the Connecticut Department of Children and Families (DCF) gets involved in a family situation, the agency’s wheels begin turning quickly. When DCF believes that the child is in danger by staying in the home, they will remove them. Where that child goes next depends on a lot of factors. The court will often appoint a guardian to make decisions for the child. Depending on the circumstances of the case, it’s possible that the grandparents could become the child’s legal guardian.

When DCF Gets Involved

Just about anyone who feels that a child’s safety, welfare, or health is in danger can call DCF in Connecticut. In fact, some professionals are required by law to notify DCF if there are suspected cases of abuse or neglect.

Once notified, DCF has an obligation to investigate the situation promptly. You will likely have a DCF investigator knock on your front door for an unannounced home visit. If the investigator has a reasonable suspicion that your child is not safe, they may also notify the police, who will respond with their own investigation.

Removing a Child from the Home

If DCF does an initial investigation and determines that there is a risk of abuse or neglect, they will attempt to create a plan to address the situation using their protocol and the services they have at their disposal. In many cases, DCF will remove the child from the home until they feel that it is once again a safe environment.

As relatives, grandparents have the legal right to notification if DCF decides to remove a child from the home. In general, DCF has an obligation to try to place the child with the other parent (if the parents are not living together) or with a relative of either parent. In many cases, it is the grandparents who are in the best position to care for and provide a home for the child. If they choose, the grandparents can request such a placement.

What Happens at a DCF Hearing?

Once a child has been removed from the home, there will be a hearing in front of a judge to give the parents a chance to argue their case. If they believe that the removal wasn’t appropriate, this is an opportunity to present such evidence. Unfortunately, many judges will side with DCF unless there has been a gross misunderstanding of facts. If you wish for your child to reside with their grandparents while your DCF case is pending, it would be a good idea to have them attend this hearing and indicate their willingness to become involved.

Filing a Petition for Guardianship

At the initial hearing, the court can grant temporary custody to a grandparent or possibly visitation rights. When there is an ongoing DCF investigation with removal from the home, the agency will move for guardianship. It would be better if you were proactive about guardianship instead of allowing a stranger to take on this role.

The child’s grandparents will need to file a petition for guardianship. This is generally the best way for grandparents to establish their custodial rights. Once guardianship is established, grandparents will have the right to make decisions for the children about healthcare and school. It can also prevent DCF from putting the children up for adoption or severing a parent’s parental rights prematurely.

The Benefits of Grandparent Guardianship

The main benefit of having a child’s grandparents appointed as your child’s legal guardian is the peace of mind you will have, knowing your children will be well cared for by a family member. But there are a few other benefits as well.

Even though a legal guardian has been appointed, parental rights haven’t been severed. Visitation arrangements, even supervised ones, can be much easier to handle when they are kept in the family. Also, there may be a lessened threat of adoption outside the family when your children maintain a close bond with a relative.

Court Systems

In Connecticut, there are different court systems that handle matters related to children. Each of them is different and having an understanding of these differences will help you decide the best course for your family. First, you have the Superior Court for Family Matters. This court hears “cases involving juveniles and family relationships. Typical cases include divorce, child custody, child support, relief from abuse (temporary restraining orders)” (See https://www.jud.ct.gov/external/super/divisions.htm). In this court, grandparents have very limited access to intervention. They may be limited to obtaining visitation with their grandchildren. In this court, it takes extraordinary circumstances to grant grandparent custody.

Secondly, there is the Superior Court for Juvenile Matters. In Juvenile Matters, the court hears matters pertaining to “termination of parental rights; emancipation of a minor; delinquency; neglected or uncared for children and youth; families with service needs.” See https://www.jud.ct.gov/external/super/divisions.htm). As it pertains to child custody, the majority of these matters are a result of DCF filing an order of temporary custody or neglect petitions on behalf of a child or children.

If you are a grandparent who is already caring for your grandchild, or you see that there is a need for you to step in given the parents’ struggle, the best place to go is the Probate Court for your town. The Probate Court is sometimes unofficially referred to as “the people’s court.” The reasoning behind this nickname is that it is far less formal than Family Matters or Juvenile Matters. Individuals can walk in and be assisted by court clerks in filling out the appropriate forms based on their requests. The only parties to the case are the petitioner, the mother, the father, and the child through his or her attorney. DCF’s role is only to complete an investigation and make a recommendation. The grandparents can make a plea for temporary custody, co-guardianship, removal of guardian and termination of parental rights in extreme cases. The Judges listen to all the parties and the setting is usually more relaxed. The rulings have the same weight as in a family or juvenile court, but grandparents caring for children tend to have more sway.

Contact an Experienced Connecticut DCF Defense Attorney

If a grandparent is available to act as your children’s guardian, this is always the best approach when DCF gets involved in your life. You never know what the future holds. While the goal might be fast reunification, DCF can ask the court at any point to sever your parental rights and move toward adoption. If this were to happen, both your and the grandparent’s rights would be lost.

Whenever DCF makes an appearance in your life, there is no time to spare. In Connecticut, relatives generally have just 90 days to intervene and seek custody of a child who has been removed from the home.

What to Do If DCF Calls You: Top 10 things to do or not do when you are being investigated by DCF


Now that we have discussed the outline of DCF investigation (see https://www.thechristielawfirm.com/post/what-to-do-if-dcf-calls-you) and your rights as parents when dealing with DCF, we want to review some tips on what to do or not do when you are being investigated by DCF. This in no means guarantees the outcome you desire or is intended to be legal advice, but it can help with lessening the risk of the case going in the wrong direction.

1. Do remain as calm as possible.

Yes, this is easier said than done. You are being accused of being a bad parent, the accusations may be baseless, and now DCF is at your house. Anger can cause you to lose focus on the matter at hand, dealing with the investigation. If you deal with the concerns effectively, DCF may be inclined to close the case with no issue. If you remain angry and they can’t get you to deal with the issues they may opt for further intervention.

2. Do insist on details about the investigation.

When DCF arrives, start the conversation yourself by asking to be told what is in the investigation. You should ask them to read it to you as they will often have the report with them. Do not start by answering their questions. Insist on knowing what is being said. This way you will not how to tailor your answers. Also, be sure to get the name of the DCF social worker, the social worker’s supervisor, and the supervisor’s program manager and keep that information for your records.

3. Do ask the DCF social worker what you have to do to resolve their concerns.

DCF is there for a particular reason. It is important to find out what you need to do to resolve their concerns with you. You do this by asking. You don’t have to do everything they ask but you need to be sure that you are addressing the issues of safety, and the care of the children. For example, if the doctor called because you haven’t followed through with recommended treatment for your child, then schedule an appointment with the doctor to determine the best course of treatment, and follow-through. You can then ask the doctor to send an updated letter to DCF regarding how you addressed the concern and are now in compliance with treatment.

4. Do “DCF-proof “ your home.

DCF will come to your home to interview you and your children, but they are also looking to see how you keep your home. DCF is not interested in décor and color schemes, but they are looking for physical signs of neglect in the home. The home visit will no doubt be announced so you will have time to “DCF-proof” your home. Start by doing a general clean up, clearing up clutter or any trash. Clear out any alcohol bottles and any signs of a party so they don’t think that the kids are exposed to alcohol abuse. If there are areas of your house that are in need of repair, ensure that it is closed off to the children so they are not exposed to any hazard. Ensure that the kids’ rooms are tidy, and toys are seen but put away. Again, the idea is not to prove you can keep a clean home at all times, but to show that you care about the home environment enough to keep it safe for your children.

5. Do offer letters from the school, the doctor or other service providers rather than sign a release.

Many of us know that HIPPA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) protects your medical and mental health information. (See https://portal.ct.gov/AG/Health-Issues/Health-Information–Services/Your-Rights-Under-HIPAA) You also have a right to privacy afforded to us under the Fourth Amendment. This ultimately means even a state agency like DCF can’t access to your private information without your approval. DCF will ask you for a release allowing them unrestricted access to your most private information. You don’t have to do that in order to get them the information. You can ask the DCF worker to list specifically what information they are seeking to alleviate any concerns and then ask that provider to write a letter answering those specific questions. For example, if DCF wants to ensure that your child attends school regularly, have the school write a letter regarding your child’s attendance. There is no need to open your life to DCF completely. You can simply give them the information that they need to close your case.

6. Do not allow DCF to speak with your children alone.

If you allow DCF into your home, they will ask to speak with your children alone. I suggest that you stay in the room or at least in the general vicinity. You want to hear what has been asked of child, so that after DCF is gone, you help your child process what actually happened. It also, allows the child to feel a level of protection as they are being questioned by a stranger. Many DCF workers are trained on how to speak with children, but nevertheless, it can be traumatic to have a stranger ask them about what is happening in their home. Stay close by and be a support to your child.

7. Do not insist on knowing who called DCF on you.

It is instinctual and justified to want to know who made the call to DCF. Who caused DCF to come to your house and disrupt your home? The issue is the caller can request to remain anonymous. I understand the reasoning. Just like whistleblower laws, you want people to come forward and report abuse or neglect of any child so that the child can get help. There is no way to ensure that only valid calls of abuse or neglect are made, and therefore this privilege of anonymity extends to truthful calls as well as malicious calls. The DCF investigator has to keep that information confidential if the caller requested confidentiality.

On the other hand, have the DCF worker read to you what is noted in the report. Often, you can tell who made the report by what was actually reported. Spend your energy by focusing on how to get DCF to close their case without further intervention.

8. Do not ignore the call from DCF all together.

There are some who would say, “just ignore the call and they will go away.” I compare that advice to ignoring the check engine light on your car dashboard assuming that with time it will go away. In either instance, it may not go away until to you do something about it. You can answer the call, to determine the issue and then make a decision on how you should proceed. Ignoring the call could cause DCF to take further action just to ensure the child’s safety. I have seen investigations span months simply because the investigator couldn’t find the family.

9. Do not try to provide an explanation or justification for everything.

“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.” We associate these rights with what a police officer is required to tell you once you are in police custody. I apply these rights to everything you say to a DCF social worker. EVERYTHING you say can be used against you. Your efforts to explain what happened or justify your actions may be construed very differently by a DCF social worker. It is best to answer only the question asked of you and when DCF notes its concern say “I understand.” “I understand” doesn’t admit to any issue nor does it deny the issue. “I understand” doesn’t mean you agree. It simply means you acknowledge the issue and are ready to move forward with resolving the concern.

10. Do not lie about any facts.

Sometimes, the truth is hard to face or admit to when confronted. There may be an instinct to lie. Do not lie about any fact, especially those that can be proven. If you smoke marijuana, don’t deny it. You could eventually be court-ordered to take a substance abuse test that will come back positive. It will only be used against you later on by claiming you lack insight into the issue.

Moreover, DCF will have difficulty trusting the things you say that are actually true. DCF needs to establish that your children are at risk or have been abused by your behavior. Let them find the facts, but don’t lie.


This is not an exhaustive list of dos and don’ts for when DCF initiates an investigation of your family. It is not intended to be legal advice for any particular case. The purpose is to give you some additional insight as to how to handle yourself when DCF comes to your home. If you choose to handle it on your own or call an attorney (like me!), you should be aware of what to do so that the situation is not made worse. Take time to review the DCF website, and educate yourself. Knowledge is power!