Connecticut Department of Children and Families Safety Plans
When the Connecticut Department of Children and Families (DCF) threatens to remove children from a home or initiate neglect proceedings against a parent, they wield a lot of power. It is not uncommon for DCF to present a Safety Plan, also referred to as a Service Agreement, to a parent after only a single contact.
Many parents do not realize that they have rights in these circumstances. Specifically, you do not have to sign one of these agreements, and you should not sign anything without first speaking with an Connecticut Family DCF attorney. However, refusing to sign can lead to DCF removing your children. The best way to handle dealing with a safety plan.
If the Connecticut DCF has become part of your life, contact my office immediately to find out how we can help protect your rights. At the Christie Law Firm, LLC, our experienced Connecticut DCF attorney will provide you with the guidance and legal support you need during this process. Call our office today to learn more about your options.
When Connecticut DCF Investigators Become Involved
The Connecticut DCF takes an aggressive approach to domestic violence and child neglect investigations throughout the state. If a family member is arrested in front of minor children or accused of domestic violence or child neglect, a Connecticut DCF investigation will commence in addition to any criminal proceedings.
What is vital for parents to understand is that, when not handled properly from the beginning, DCF’s lawyers and investigators could have the power to restrict your parental rights and even strip you of custody of your children.
If minor children were present when you were arrested, or you were arrested for a crime involving your child, you can expect to hear from DCF investigators within 48 hours. By law, Connecticut DCF investigators must respond quickly to conduct a safety assessment of your home (they will not call first) and ensure the mental and physical health of your children.
This unannounced visit from DCF can be extremely intimidating. One of the biggest mistakes parents make is agreeing to open up your whole life to DCF and signing blanket releases. Remember, what you say can be used against. A investigation handled poorly can have lasting consequences.
What is a DCF Safety Plan?
A Safety Plan, is much more serious than it sounds. DCF will put one of these forms in front of a frightened and intimidated parent during that initial home visit or soon after.
DCF will ask you to agree to specific actions, such as getting substance abuse treatment, attending anger management classes, or even sending your children to live with a relative temporarily. You are also supposed to agree that you will provide a safe home for your children, which is silly because this is the fundamental responsibility of a parent.
Connecticut DCF plays a vital role in helping children and families in crisis. But, some of the tactics that the agency uses can also be destructive to families. If you do not understand your rights with respect to signing a Safety Plan, you could be making a serious mistake.
Do You Have to Sign a DCF Safety Plan?
No, you do not have to sign a DCF Safety Plan. DCF Safety Plans are voluntary, and you absolutely do not have to sign anything that DCF puts in front of you without first speaking with an attorney.
Understandably, you want to cooperate as much as possible with a state agency, but an investigator may not be giving you a clear picture of what lies ahead. For example, they might tell you that a Safety Plan is “done all the time” or that it’s “routine.” Both may be true, but you still do not have to sign it.
Unfortunately, DCF is not going to tell you the potential consequences of signing that form. Once a Safety Plan is added to your cased, DCF can use the terms of that plan to allege that you are not being compliant. And non-compliance with a Safety Plan often results in children being moved into temporary protective custody by the state.
In other words, you could lose your children because the DCF investigator decides that you are not complying with their voluntary list of demands. Sometimes, those demands are open-ended, meaning DCF can add items to the list and even extend the termination date of the plan.
If You Are the Subject of a DCF Investigation
When a DCF investigator shows up at your door, they probably are not going to tell you, nor are they obligated to you, that you have the right to avoid self-incrimination. While you should be cooperative with DCF and avoid being hostile, it is important to understand that anything you tell an investigator will be documented and potentially used against you.
DCF is likely to fish for information on certain topics, such as substance abuse, mental health, and domestic violence history. You should be incredibly cautious about having these discussions because that information will likely be used as a basis for drawing up a Safety Plan.
Finally, do not let a DCF investigator intimidate you into signing a Safety Plan. It is not uncommon for a parent to hear something like “there could be consequences for not signing the form” or “the children might be taken from your home”. This is intimidation at its best, but you have rights.
Your children cannot be removed from your home without a court order, and a Safety Plan does not transfer guardianship or change custody. Let the investigator know that you plan to speak with an attorney to protect the best interests of you and your children.
Speak With an Experienced Connecticut DCF Lawyer
If a Connecticut DCF investigator contacts you – either by phone or in person – you need qualified counsel to represent your interests. At The Christie Law Firm, LLC, our attorney has over a decade of experience as a social worker for DCF, as well as the education and legal experience your situation requires.
Your attorney can push back against unfair treatment by DCF investigators and protect your rights during interviews and court hearings related to your case. To get the help you need and learn more about your options, contact our Hartford office today. Call (860) 461-7494 or reach out to us online to schedule a confidential initial consultation.