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.