In earlier posts, we discussed 1) outline of a DCF investigation (see https://www.thechristielawfirm.com/post/what-to-do-if-dcf-calls-you) 2) the parent’s right to know (see https://www.thechristielawfirm.com/post/what-to-do-if-dcf-calls-you-parents-right-to-know) and 3) tips on handling a DCF investigation (see https://www.thechristielawfirm.com/post/top-10-things-to-do-or-not-do-when-you-are-being-investigated-by-dcf.)
Eventually, the DCF investigation must come to a conclusion. How it ends is as important as how it is handled. This post will outline some of the key components to the end of the DCF investigation, and what to look out for at the end. This is not intended to be legal advice, but to provide you with some general knowledge.
When we think of child abuse or child neglect we often first think of cases like children being left alone in hot cars, or children being physically abused. These events do constitute neglect and abuse, but there is a much larger area of abuse and neglect that can be harder to comprehend. This is the area that DCF has to cover as well. A parent may be very loving to their child and ensure that all of the child’s needs are met. However, if that parent drinks heavily each night after the children are asleep, DCF may consider that the children are “at-risk” as the parent may be too impaired to deal with an emergency in the middle of the night, such as a fire.
There are several categories of abuse and neglect as outlined on DCF’s website. See https://portal.ct.gov/DCF/1-DCF/Child-Abuse-and-Neglect-Definitions (Please note, you can learn a great deal about DCF by studying their own website.) The categories of abuse include:
This a long list with an even longer explanation for each of the categories. We will not go into what each of these means as there many details. However, these definitions are supposed to be a guide for DCF in making their finds. The issue is that it can be very subjective. It is how each DCF social worker and their management looks at the facts that determine if they are going to substantiate any abuse or neglect. To substantiate means to find that abuse or neglect has occurred to a child or children.
Once DCF has decided if it can substantiate abuse or neglect. They will also make a determination of who caused the abuse and/or neglect. This again is based on the evidence found during the investigation. This is also documented in the investigation protocol - a document completed by the investigation social worker which details the entire investigation and the findings. You can get a copy of your investigation by emailing DCF.RECORDS@ct.gov and following the directions given to you. DCF is then obligated to send the parents a letter noting if abuse or neglect was substantiated and by whom. They will also indicate if that person who caused the abuse or neglect is placed on the DCF Central Registry - a list of individuals who pose a threat to children.
Never overlook a DCF substantiation as it can have long-lasting consequences for anyone found to have abused or neglected a child. For example:
A grandmother can be excluded as foster parents for their own grandchild if they were found to have neglected a child over 20 years ago.
An aunt and uncle could be excluded from being legal guardians for their niece and nephew due to medical neglect of their own child substantiated 15 years ago.
A teacher can risk losing her job if found to have neglected her daughter who had severe mental health needs that were beyond her control.
These are true stories of clients that we have helped whose lives were severely impacted by a substantiation. They disagreed with the investigation, and in some, we were able to get the substantiation reversed - which means overturned and therefore there was no finding of abuse or neglect. In others, no change was made, and the families continued to deal with consequences.
We can’t stress enough how important it is to handle a DCF investigation properly. You will never know the impact it can have your family 5, 10 or 20 years down the road. If you are a subject of DCF investigation and you need help please contact our office if at (860) 461-7494 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.