Experienced Hartford DCF Attorney
Every day in West Hartford, the Connecticut Department of Children and Families (DCF) investigates a number of allegations, most of which turn out to be exaggerated or false. You should take any allegation and investigation from the DCF seriously because this agency wields tremendous power. But it’s important to understand that you also have rights.
If the Connecticut DCF has initiated an investigation into your household, you have reason to be concerned. What this means is that the state can step in and remove your child from your home. This can be devastating for all involved. Having a West Hartford DCF attorney at your side can make a significant difference in your outcome. If this is your current situation, please contact The Christie Law Firm today to schedule an initial consultation.
How Does the DCF Operate in Connecticut?
The DCF is a statewide agency that was created to oversee services and programs involving child welfare, foster care, child abuse, domestic violence, mental health issues, and legal services for children in the state. The DCF is authorized to remove a child from any situation that is considered harmful to their welfare, even if a caseworker only has a suspicion that something isn’t right in a household.
If the DCF removes a child from a home, the parents, caregivers, or guardians of that child must attend a hearing where evidence is presented regarding possible abuse or neglect. If a family law judge is convinced, they can place the child in foster care.
How DCF Investigations Proceed
The DCF takes reported cases of potential abuse or neglect seriously. So should you. Many cases get opened thanks to a referral from a mandated reporter, who is a professional required by state law to report any suspected instances of child abuse or neglect to the DCF. Mandated reporters include people like doctors, teachers, coaches, childcare workers, and therapists. But reports might also come in from misguided neighbors or even disgruntled spouses in the midst of divorce proceedings.
The DCF has two options when they receive a report. If they consider the matter “low-risk,” the agency can use its Family Assessment Response (FAR) System to advise the family of different resources available to them depending on the circumstances of the case. Or the DCF can decide to open a full investigation. Even if the DCF chooses the FAR approach, it can still escalate to an investigation at any point.
The DCF assesses the risk to a child when they open their case, many times requiring a full investigation. The DCF investigator almost always shows up at the home unannounced for a visit and will ask to speak with the child. They might say they are “on your side” and tell you they just want to help you clear up any misunderstandings. Make no mistake; their primary purpose is to investigate abuse and neglect allegations, which requires gathering as many facts about your family as possible.
A DCF investigator has 45 days to complete their investigation, where they either substantiate findings of abuse or neglect or dismiss the case after findings are unsubstantiated. If they substantiate the findings, they may find enough cause to add you to the DCF Central Registry and petition the court to have your child removed from your home temporarily or have your parental rights suspended.
Parent’s Rights in CT DCF Cases
Having the DCF involved in your life can be overwhelming and terrifying. While this can be a confusing time, you have rights when dealing with a DCF investigator. These include:
- The right to understand the allegations — state law requires that the DCF provide you with a list of the allegations against you. Unless a caseworker can provide this information, you can refuse to cooperate.
- The right to review a court order — the DCF cannot come into your home without a court order granting them the authority to do so. You have the right to ask a DCF investigator for a court order. If you wish to allow a DCF worker into your home, you have the right to have an attorney present during the visit.
- The right to say nothing — In most situations, a DCF investigator will not place you under arrest when they knock on your door. However, you still have the right to remain silent, and the caseworker can’t legally force you to answer their questions. Again, should you wish to provide information, you have the right to have your attorney present when making any statements.
Why You Need a Qualified Attorney to Protect Your Rights in DCF Matters
If the DCF enters your life, this is not something you want to handle on your own. It’s understandable if you think that a simple miscommunication can be cleared up if you only explain your side of the story or allow your child to be interviewed. But this is too risky of a chance to take when your parental rights are on the line.
An experienced DCF defense attorney will assert your rights with DCF caseworkers. They will stand by your side through any interviews and advocate for your interests at hearings related to your case. There is even a possibility that your attorney could negotiate a reasonable settlement with the DCF that resolves your issue and closes the matter. If your child is removed from the home, your attorney can help guide you through the complex reunification process to bring them back home where they belong.
Contact an Experienced West Harford, CT DCF Attorney Today
When you’re facing false allegations or a misunderstanding of any kind that could be considered unlawful or harmful to a child, The Christie Law Firm can offer you valuable counsel. We recommend that you avoid confronting the party making the accusation. Instead, please consult with our seasoned DCF defense attorney.
If you are contacted by the DCF or law enforcement, simply remain calm and call our office. In the event you’ve been served with an order of protection, you should understand that you will have the opportunity to defend yourself. Working with a knowledgeable and skilled attorney is the best way to produce a positive result. Please call (86) 461-7494 or contact us online to find out how we can help.