Connecticut Department of Children and Families (DCF) Cases Investigations
The Connecticut Department of Children and Families has a duty to investigate all allegations of child abuse or neglect that it receives. For parents and guardians, this can be an unnerving process that leads to fears about the child being removed from the home. Fortunately, DCF will only make a recommendation to remove a child from a home when the child is at serious risk of physical or emotional harm and removal is in the child’s best interests. Before DCF issues any finding, however, it will conduct a thorough investigation.
At The Christie Law Firm, LLC, our experienced DCF cases attorney can provide you with the legal support and guidance that you need during the DCF investigatory process. Call our law firm as soon as possible after receiving notice from DCF that you’re being investigated.
The DCF Investigation Process: What to Expect
A DCF investigation will be commenced if DCF receives notice of an allegation of abuse or neglect of a child or if someone in your household has been arrested for domestic violence and there are children within the home.
The first thing to know about a DCF investigation is that it will likely commence fairly quickly after the DCF receives a report of potential abuse or neglect. In fact, DCF must make its best effort to begin investigating within two hours of receiving a report of imminent harm to a child, and within 72 hours of receiving any other report pertaining to child abuse or neglect. In addition to quickly commencing an investigation, DCF must also inform law enforcement of any cases that involve serious physical injury to a child (non-accidental) or sexual assault or exploitation.
There are multiple elements to a DCF investigation once it commences, including:
- Child interviews. Recognizing that interviewing a child may be traumatic or psychologically harmful to a child, DCF will seek to interview the child as infrequently as possible. DCF must obtain consent from the parent or guardian before interviewing a child unless doing so would put the child at imminent risk of harm or the parent or guardian/caregiver is the alleged perpetrator. The information gained during the child interview will inform the DCF’s investigative report and final conclusions.
- Assessment referrals. In some cases, another part of the DCF process is an assessment referral, which means that the DCF reports the allegations of child abuse or neglect to appropriate community providers for a family assessment.
- Investigative report. In order to inform its report, the DCF will engage in a number of investigatory actions, including home visits during which the family and the child are observed, interviews of parents and other relevant parties, an in-home evaluation of the parents, and any other necessary actions. At the conclusion of the investigation–which must be completed within 45 days of its commencement–DCF will issue findings.
The Results of a DCF Investigation
When the investigation is complete, the DCF will issue a finding that the allegations of abuse or neglect are either substantiated or unsubstantiated. If the findings are substantiated, the case will proceed to juvenile court and the parent/caregiver/guardian may be added to the registry of child abuse and neglect. DCF may also file a petition to remove the child from the home temporarily until the hearing is completed.
If results are substantiated, parents/guardians have the right to appeal those results within 30 days of receiving them. The appeal of results takes place in what’s known as a substantiation hearing.
Preparing Yourself for a DCF Investigation
If you or someone in your home has been arrested for domestic violence or certain other crimes, or if someone has filed a report alleging that child abuse or neglect is occurring, you can be sure that the DCF will open an investigation. It’s smart to know what the investigatory process looks like and how to best prepare for the investigation – our lawyer can help. Important to-dos include:
- Hire a lawyer. As stated above, the very first thing that you should do if you are contacted by DCF is to hire an attorney. The sooner you hire an attorney, the more an attorney can help you. If you choose not to work with an attorney, you may be putting yourself at risk of being more vulnerable to a negative case outcome.
- Be honest and participatory. One thing that can hurt your DCF case is refusing to participate in DCF’s investigation or providing the DCF with any misleading or untruthful information. Remember that DCF staff have a duty to do their job and are doing the best they can; being cooperative and professional can go a long way. Note that cooperating and remaining cordial does not mean that you have to surrender any rights or accept the outcome of a DCF decision.
- Know your rights. It’s important that you learn as much about the DCF process as possible, as well as your rights during that process. For example, your child cannot be interviewed without your consent unless you are the suspect or getting your consent would put the child at harm and, even then, a disinterested adult must be present during the interview in the vast majority of cases, with the exception of very special circumstances where the interview must be conducted immediately in order to protect the child. You also have the right to legal representation during home visits, and the right to contest the findings of the DCF.
While being contacted by DCF can be a troubling and nerve-wracking experience, adequate preparation can go a long way in ensuring that you’re not caught off guard and that you do everything you need to do to protect your family.
Call The Christie Law Firm, LLC Today
If you are the subject of a DCF investigation, our law firm strongly recommends reaching out to an attorney as soon as possible. Our attorney has more than a decade of experience as a social worker for DCF, as well as the legal background and education your case demands. To learn more and to get the help you need, call The Christie Law Firm, LLC directly today at (860) 461-7494 or send us a message telling us more about your case.