Tag Archive for: Connecticut DCF

Mandated Reporter Laws in Connecticut

Suspicions, accusations, and evidence of child abuse and neglect are taken very seriously in Connecticut. In order to help the state identify and investigate potential incidents of child abuse or neglect, the state maintains a mandated reporter statute. 

The following explains the mandated reporter statute, answers questions about who is a mandated reporter in our state and the steps that a mandated reporter is required to take, and offers advice and guidance for parents and guardians regarding what to do if a child abuse report is made. For advice that is more specific to your case, reach out to The Christie Law Firm, LLC directly today. 

What Is the Mandated Reporters Statute?

The mandated reporter statute is found in Connecticut Statutes Section 17a-101, which explains that the purpose of the mandated reporter law is to “protect children whose health and welfare may be adversely affected through injury and neglect; to strengthen the family and to make the home safe for children by enhancing the parental capacity for good child care; to provide a temporary or permanent nurturing and safe environment for children when necessary…” 

For these purposes, the law requires that certain professionals report any suspected child abuse or neglect to the appropriate agency. 

Who Is a Mandated Reporter?

Under the same section of the code cited above, the following professionals are considered mandated reporters and are required under the law to report suspicions or allegations of child abuse and neglect:

  • Physicians and surgeons
  • Resident physicians and interns in any hospital
  • Registered nurses
  • Licensed practical nurses
  • Medical examiners
  • Dentists
  • Dental hygienists
  • Psychologists
  • School employees
  • Social workers
  • Coaches with a coaching permit from the State Board of Education
  • Coaches and directors of young athletics programs
  • Any staff or faculty member employed by a private or public institution of education
  • Police officers
  • Probation officers
  • Parole officers
  • Pharmacists
  • Physical therapists
  • Optometrists
  • Chiropractors
  • Podiatrists
  • Mental health professionals
  • Physical assistants
  • Emergency medical providers
  • Licensed alcohol and drug counselors
  • Foster care parents
  • Paid childcare workers
  • Employees of the Department of Children and Families
  • Employees of the Office of Early Childhood
  • Youth camp directors and assistant directors
  • Child Advocates

If one of the above professionals comes in contact with a child and suspects that abuse or neglect is occurring, they will be required under the law to report their suspicions. 

Steps a Mandated Reporter Is Required to Take

If a mandated reporter has reasonable cause to believe that a child under the age of 18 is a victim of abuse or neglect, or is at risk of imminent harm, they are required to report that suspected abuse to the Department of Children and Families (DCF). Under the law, an oral report must be made nearly immediately—within 12 hours of first suspecting abuse or neglect—and a formal written report must be filed within 48 hours. 

What Happens After a Report of Child Abuse Is Made?

After a report of child abuse or neglect is made, DCF is responsible for opening an investigation into the allegations. Usually, the investigation will commence very shortly after the initial report is made. 

During the investigation, DCF will visit the child’s home and may interview others who have observed the child and parents, such as the child’s teacher and family members. DCF will then make a determination about whether the allegations of abuse and neglect are substantiated. If the allegations are substantiated, there may be a recommendation to remove the child from the home. 

How The Christie Law Firm, LLC Can Help 

If you have been reported to the Department of Children and Families and DCF is commencing an investigation into your family, it is critical that you reach out to a skilled DCF defense attorney as soon as possible. Most parents and guardians don’t understand the DCF investigatory process or their rights throughout an ongoing investigation, putting them at greater risk of a negative case outcome. 

An attorney can help you to understand your rights and what to do if a finding of abuse is substantiated by DCF and you are at risk of having your child removed from your home.

Call The Christie Law Firm, LLC Today

Understanding mandated reporter laws and what to do if a mandated reporter filed a report about your child with DCF is important. At The Christie Law Firm, LLC, we have years of experience in DCF cases advocating for children and families. Reach out to us today by phone at (860) 461-7494, online, or in person for the legal representation you need. 

Reinstatement of Parental Rights in Connecticut

There is probably nothing more devastating to a parent than not being able to maintain a close relationship with their child. But custody battles are common in family law cases, and protective services may become involved and make recommendations they feel are in the child’s bests interests. 

When the Connecticut Department of Children and Families (DCF) becomes involved in your life, your rights as a parent may be in jeopardy. Even if the DCF agent says they are on your side, you’ll want to use extreme caution in your interactions with this agency to protect the rights of you and your children. 

What is Termination of Parental Rights in Connecticut?

In most U.S. states, the termination of parental rights means the same thing. The legal relationship between you and your child is completely severed by the court. If the rights of just one parent are terminated, the other parent becomes the minor’s sole legal parent. The child could also be adopted by a stepparent at this point. 

How Your Parental Rights Can Be Terminated in Connecticut

A termination of parental rights is not the same thing as a custody action. Just because one parent has sole physical custody doesn’t mean that the other doesn’t have parental rights and responsibilities. 

It’s important to note that your parental rights can only be terminated through a court order. This is often triggered by a DCF investigation. And the termination can happen by consent or without consent. 

Termination of Parental Rights by Consent

One of the ways your parental rights can be terminated is if you agree to it. Since you are also giving up your responsibility to support your children, the court must also determine that this is in your children’s best interests. This is a permanent solution to what is usually a temporary problem and not something we recommend. 

Termination of Parental Right Without Consent

The other way the state can terminate your parental rights is without your consent. This is more common. The petitioning party must present clear and convincing evidence to prove that the termination is in the child’s best interests. 

The Parental Rights Termination Process

The Petitioner will file a request to terminate your parental rights in the probate court where the petitioner or child resides. If the child is over the age of 12, they must be joined in the petition. The parties having the ability to serve as petitioners include the child’s other parent or guardian, a DCF or another child-care agent, or the relative of a child who has been abandoned or deserted by a parent. 

The probated court will hold a hearing within 30 days of the petition’s filing. If you receive such a petition, it’s not only vital that you file an answer by the deadline but that you also attend the hearing to defend your parental rights. A seasoned lawyer can help you build a strong and convincing case that addresses the Petitioner’s concerns. 

Is Reinstatement of Parental Rights in Connecticut Possible?

In most cases, the termination of parental rights in Connecticut is permanent. Some states have passed legislation allowing the courts to reinstate parental rights if children remain in the foster care system. So far, Connecticut isn’t one of those states. 

However, if the child has not been adopted and the court believes it is in the best interest of the child, it may be possible to get a Motion to Open or Set Aside the judgment or get a petition for a new trial. In general, a motion must be filed within four months of the judgment. The only time a judgment can be opened after four months is when it can be shown that the judgment was obtained in the absence of consent, by fraud, or due to a mutual mistake. 

Speak With a Qualified Connecticut DCF Attorney

The termination of parental rights is a serious legal step that will impact you and your children for many years to come. If this is even a possibility, you need experienced legal counsel advocating for your interests sooner rather than later. 

Time is of the essence with DCF cases. Parents who procrastinate often regret not taking action as soon as DCF enters the scene. At The Christie Law Firm, we have extensive experience handling all types of Connecticut DCF cases. Our knowledgeable and compassionate DCF attorney will fight for your parental rights and the best interests of your children. Contact our office today to schedule an initial consultation. 

Under What Circumstances Can My Parental Rights Be Terminated?

When the Connecticut court orders the termination of parental rights, the legal relationship between you and your child ceases to exist. As you can imagine, this is a serious event that has lifelong consequences. 

In nearly every case, it’s not possible to reinstate parental rights once they’ve been terminated. This isn’t the same as changing child custody or the reunification process, which involves reuniting you and your children after they’ve been removed from the home temporarily. 

Because the termination of parental rights is so serious and final, it’s essential that parents understand why this option might be pursued and the ways they can protect their and their children’s rights when a petition is filed. 

What is the Termination of Parental Rights in Connecticut?

When parental rights are terminated, the parent-child relationship legally comes to an end. When this happens, the child is legally able to be placed for adoption. A parent can voluntarily relinquish their parental rights, provided the state agrees their rights and responsibilities should be terminated. This is never a good idea and something you should discuss with a qualified attorney. 

Most parental rights are terminated involuntarily, meaning another party files a petition with the court and has to prove their case. In Connecticut, the only parties who can petition for the termination of parental rights are:

  • Either parent
  • The child’s guardian
  • A childcare or child-placing or similar DCF-approved agency official
  • The selectman of a town with a foundling child
  • A relative of a child whose parent has deserted them

If the child is over the age of 12, they must also be named as a Petitioner. 

Grounds for Termination of Parental Rights in Connecticut

For the court to grant a petition terminating parental rights, the Petitioner must be able to prove two things. First, they must demonstrate that the termination will be in the child’s best interests. Second, they must show that one of the following grounds for termination exists:

  • The child has been abandoned by the parent. 
  • There is no ongoing parent-child relationship, and it would be detrimental to the best interests of the child to allow additional time for the establishment or reestablishment of such a bond. 
  • The minor has been refused by acts of parental omission or commission, the guidance, control, or care necessary for their physical, emotional, moral, or educational well-being.
  • In a prior proceeding, the Probate or Superior Court has found that the child has been abused, neglected, or uncared for. 
  • Another child of the parent under the age of seven has been found to be abused, neglected, or uncared for and the parent’s rights were terminated with respect for that child. 
  • The parent was found to have committed sexual assault, which resulted in the conception of the minor. 
  • The parent deliberately killed or conspired to kill another of their children or was found to have intentionally assaulted another of their children, resulting in serious bodily injury. 
  • The parent has failed to rehabilitate themselves after having been found guilty of neglect or failure to care for the child or who failed to take specific steps to facilitate the return of a child who has been in DCF custody for at least 15 months. 

Contesting a Petition for Parental Termination in Connecticut

If someone tries to terminate your parental rights, you can and should contest their efforts. You have the right to mount a defense at the 30-day hearing. Most judges want to keep families united whenever possible. The court will take the following items into consideration when making its determination. 

  • The child’s age.
  • The nature, extent, and timeliness of services offered to the parent(s) by the agency to facilitate reunification efforts.
  • Whether DCF made reasonable efforts at reunification pursuant to child welfare and federal adoption law.
  • Any terms relative to existing court orders involving an agency and the parent(s) and the extent to which the parties have satisfied their requirements under the order.
  • The emotional ties and feelings the child has to their parent(s) or any other person who has had custody, care, and control of the child.
  • The extent to which the parent has been barred from maintaining a meaningful relationship with their child. And…
  • The parents attempt to maintain contact with the child and adjust to the current situation. 

These are complex legal proceedings that should not be entered into without the assistance and guidance of a seasoned attorney. 

Speak With An Experienced Attorney About Defending Your Parental Rights

If your parental rights are in jeopardy, there is no time to waste. After a petition is filed, there are just days to submit an answer and prepare for the mandatory hearing. While the Petitioner must prove their case, your complacency can serve as part of their body of evidence. 

At The Christie Law Firm, our experienced DCF attorney is dedicated to keeping families together and protecting the rights of parents and their children. Contact our office today to schedule an initial consultation so that we can go over your options. 

How to Succeed When Dealing With Connecticut DCF

Because the Connecticut Department of Children and Families (DCF) wields so much power, it would be a mistake to underestimate them. If someone has made an allegation of child abuse or neglect, you’ve probably received a visit from a DCF caseworker or likely will soon. This is just the beginning of your interactions with the agency. How you approach things from this point forward could determine the outcome of your case.

When DCF Becomes a Part of Your Life

Many DCF cases begin with pure intentions. Someone has likely tipped off the agency that a child is being mistreated or neglected. That may or may not be accurate, but DCF caseworkers are bound by law to investigate a report.

Unfortunately, some DCF cases go much further than they should. The agency has 45 days to complete its investigation. During that period, a caseworker might ask you to sign a Safety Plan and/or agree to jump through some hoops.

But your relationship with DCF isn’t likely to end once the investigation is complete. The agency can continue to make home visits for as long as they decide it is necessary.

Common Mistakes Parents Make When Dealing With DCF

There’s nothing like the rush of panic a parent feels when they open the door and find someone from DCF standing on their doorstep. It’s confusing and embarrassing. Of course, the first instinct is to get defensive because you know you love your children and are a good parent. But, if you don’t take a few deep breaths, you’re like to make some costly mistakes.

  1. Not Taking DCF Seriously 

Unfortunately, anyone can make an anonymous report to the Connecticut DCF about suspected abuse or neglect. Some reports are legitimate, but many are not. And, now more than ever, low-income families have become the target of these investigations as people confuse poverty with neglect.

Too many innocent situations can trigger an investigation. But they are all equally serious. Any DCF investigation has the potential to get your children removed from the home. So, take a DCF contact seriously.

  1. Not Understanding the Scope of an Investigation

Few people realize that the definitions of “neglect” and “abuse” used by DCF are incredibly broad. They are so broad that they can encompass a wide variety of seemingly acceptable child supervision and parenting behavior.

If you have fallen on hard times or simply have one bad day where you can’t get support to care for your children, you could be accused of neglect. And the standard that DCF uses for child abuse isn’t the same that the authorities use to file criminal charges.

  1. Not Exercising Your Rights

While you want to be cooperative with any state agency that has the power to remove your children, do not forget that you have rights. You don’t have to allow DCF into your home without a warrant. You also don’t have to consent to an interview without having an attorney present. Even when a caseworker acts like they are on your side, use caution. The best way to deal with DCF is to let them know you intend to hire an attorney that will represent your interests.

How to Succeed When Dealing With Connecticut DCF

The best way to succeed when dealing with Connecticut DCF is to hire an experienced DCF attorney and follow their advice. Seek out an attorney who has a deep understanding of Connecticut law and an extensive background in handling DCF cases. Armed with this knowledge and experience, a Connecticut DCF attorney understands the law, the agency’s procedures, and could even have an established rapport with some of the DCF personnel and applicable judges.

Your attorney is likely to give you some advice that you either don’t understand or don’t like. If you’ve hired the right law firm, your attorney is looking out for your and your children’s best interests. Share your concerns with your lawyer so that you understand the reasons for each recommendation.

An attorney with years of experience dealing with DCF will understand the consequences of certain actions or what could happen if you fail to act as they recommend. Take advantage of those hard-won lessons so that you can get the best outcome possible for your particular DCF case.

Speak With a Qualified Connecticut DCF Defense Attorney

It would be a mistake to think that simply hiring an attorney is going to fix any and all DCF issues. But the right Connecticut DCF defense attorney will sit down with you and come up with the best strategy to secure a positive case outcome.

At The Christie Law Firm, we understand that DCF intervention is stressful and frightening. No parent wants to answer to a state agency or face the prospect of losing their children, even temporarily. When you’re in this situation, we will give you the compassion and direction you need to move forward towards a successful resolution of your DCF case.

Call our Hartford office today at (860) 461-7494 or contact us online to schedule an initial consultation.