Tag Archive for: DCF

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.

What Is the DCF Central Registry and Can I Appeal My Placement?

Most states, including the state of Connecticut, have a statewide registry where listings of child neglect, abuse, and maltreatment records are maintained. In Connecticut, this registry is known as the Connecticut Department of Children and Families (DCF) Central Registry. Here is an overview of what you should know about the DCF Central Registry and what happens if your name is placed on the registry, as well as what you should know about appealing the placement.

What Is the DCF Central Registry and When Is a Name Placed on the Registry?

If you are suspected of child abuse or neglect in our state, your name can be placed on the DCF Central Registry. When a person is suspected to be a risk to a child, the DCF will conduct an investigation. At the conclusion of the investigation, the DCF may make a finding of substantiation. Substantiation means that the DCF has found that there is reasonable cause to believe that child abuse or neglect has occurred. If there is a finding of substantiation, then your name may be placed on the DCF Central Registry, but it depends on the circumstances of the case.

What Are the Consequences of a Name Being Placed on the DCF Central Registry?

If your name is added to the DCF Central Registry, the record will include your name, another identifying fact or data set (such as your address or date of birth), the date of the DCF investigation, the nature of the investigation, the DCF’s finding and the risk level of the child, as determined by the DCF.

A DCF Central Registry listing is not available to the general public and will not be accessible if a criminal background check is conducted against you. However, it will be available to the Child Protection Department. It may also be available to future employers.

Perhaps most significantly, having your name placed on the DCF Central Registry can take an emotional toll on your family. Placement on the DCF Central Registry may also impair your ability to obtain certain employment types where interaction with children is part of the job, such as a job as a nurse, teacher, coach, etc.

Can I Appeal the Placement of My Name on the DCF Central Registry? 

When the DCF makes a finding of substantiation, they must inform the identified perpetrator/parent of their finding; within that notice, the DCF is legally required to provide the parent with information about the basis for the finding, the right of the person to bring forth an administrative appeal, and the steps to take to bring forth the appeal. You have 30 days from the date of receiving the notice to file an appeal.

During the appeals hearing, you will have the opportunity to present evidence that contradicts the DCF’s evidence against you. It is especially important that you have an attorney who can represent you during this process. Your attorney can call witnesses to the stand, challenge the DCF’s evidence, and cross-examine the primary DCF investigator on your case. If your appeal is successful, then your name will not be added to the DCF Central Registry.

There is another way to remove your name from the DCF Central Registry: filing an application for removal at a later date. If you can prove that circumstances have significantly changed since your name was first placed on the registry, then you can have your name removed from the list. You will need to provide evidence of completion of rehabilitation services, a copy of your criminal record, and recommendation letters from employers, a therapist, or another trusted source. The DCF will also investigate if there have been any recent complaints brought against you/you have had a recent interaction with any child welfare agencies.

Get Help from a Trusted Attorney in Connecticut 

Having your name placed on the DCF Central Registry can be scary and intimidating, and can have a long lasting effects. You may be wondering what happens next, whether or not your child will be taken away from you, and how your future opportunities may be impacted. When you call The Christie Law Firm, LLC, our attorney can help you to appeal having your name placed on the DCF Central Registry and provide you with representation as you navigate the consequences of a DCF substantiation finding.

We have experience working on DCF cases like yours and we know how much is on the line for you and your family. For the legal support and counsel that you need, call us today at (860) 461-7494, send us a message online, or visit our law office in person for a consultation.

What to Do If DCF Calls You – Important Information about DCF Investigations

One of the scariest calls you can get is from a DCF worker. DCF stands for the Department of Children and Families. In Connecticut, they have the task of protecting the welfare of children located in the State of Connecticut. According to DCF, “the mission of the Department of Children and Families is to protect children, improve child and family wellbeing, and support and preserve families.” This is taken from the Parent’s Right to Know brochure given to each parent. (See https://portal.ct.gov/-/media/DCF/Brochures/PRTKEnglish-2019.pdf?la=en).

This mission statement sounds ok until you realize what DCF has the power to do. They can investigate your entire family and make a determination if your children should remain in your care. Knowing this power, you have to do more than read a brochure. You need to understand their goals and procedures when you are being investigated by DCF so you know how best to deal with DCF if they call.

In this blog, I will outline the overall procedure of each investigation. This is to give you some insight into what to expect. In the next post, I will give explanations about your rights as parents. The final post in this series will give some tips on what to do if DCF has called you. The goal is not to give legal advice on to handle your case because each case is different. The goal is to help you understand the role and function of the DCF investigation so that you can be prepared.

DCF is one agency that doesn’t need to look for work, it comes to them. A call comes into the DCF hotline number (1-800-842-2288). A social worker responds and asks a series of questions about the case. They need to know more than just general compliant, names and addresses. They may do a preliminary investigation over the phone to determine as much information as possible. They ask about others in the home. They ask about issues of drug use or domestic violence. They need to know all the issues as much as possible before making a determination of what is next.

After the call, the social worker in connection with a supervisor will determine how best to proceed. If they determine that there is not enough to proceed with an investigation because there is not enough information or the issue does not include issues of abuse or neglect then the call goes no further. If there is a valid concern of abuse or neglect, then the call is coded for the type of response needed.

From there, the report is sent to the office covering the town where the child is located. The social worker has to initiate contact with the family by making a telephone call or visiting the home if necessary. After the call is made, the investigator will begin the investigation.

The investigation typically starts with contacting the reporter. The investigator will see if there is anything more to report. This person may have opted to be anonymous, but that anonymity is only as to keep that information from the parent. DCF keeps information of each person that calls the hotline of abuse or neglect. The anonymity is important because DCF needs individuals to make reports of abuse or neglect otherwise, without fear. This may be the only way some kids can get help.

The social worker will call you to make arrangements to come and interview you regarding the investigation. If you take the call, then the DCF will come to your house as planned. They will speak to you about the issues in the case. After speaking with you, the social worker will ask to speak with each of your children alone. They will start with the child who is the subject of the report. They will also speak with any other children. They will also ask to speak with each adult in the home. They do so to make sure they have made contact with each person who has come in contact with the child in question.

If you don’t take the call, then DCF will have to make a determination as to how to proceed. The social worker will consult with his or her management as to how far they should go to make a connection with the family. They may try the house again. They may continue to call. The DCF team could also consider legal avenues such as filing a petition in court asking the Juvenile to intervene.

During the home visit, DCF will ask about the kids’ medical and educational status. Although DCF could be there about a concern of physical abuse, they will need to ensure that the child/children are up to date medically and are going to school on a regular basis. In order to do so, DCF will ask for the parent to sign a release of information. This will allow DCF to contact the doctors and school officials about your child. If the child is in counseling, DCF will also inquire of the counselor the child’s status.

The purpose of all these interviews is to get as clear an understanding of the family’s status. The social worker only has a short period of time to complete the investigation. This does not mean if they finish in time required, that the investigation is invalid, it just means it’s late.

DCF will talk with any other individuals that may be important to completing the investigation. Once the investigation is complete DCF will have to decide whether to substantiate (to find that the child was abused or neglected) or to unsubstantiated (to find that the child was not abused or neglected). They will also determine who is the cause of the abuse or neglect.

The last determination is whether to place someone on the DCF central registry. This registry is a registry for individuals who have been determined to be a danger to children. It is not a public list. However, employers such as schools and daycares can enquire of DCF, in writing, whether or not a potential hire is on the list. The Central Registry does not prevent people from getting a job, that is up to the employer. However, for most schools and daycare facilities, they will not want to hire someone on the DCF Central Registry. It is also important to note if a person is on the Central Registry, it can prevent that person from being a foster parent even for a relative.

Lastly, the social worker will discuss the findings with the supervisor and program manager if necessary. Then will then finalize the investigation by notifying the family of the results. DCF will send a letter detailing the decision made regarding the investigation. The letter will note the following

  1. The type of abuse or neglect that is substantiated or unsubstantiated
  2. If the person will be listed on the DCF central registry
  3. How you may challenge the findings

Challenging the DCF findings is important as it can have a lasting impact on your employment if work with children or your future with your children.

The investigation process can be very difficult to go through. If handled poorly, a parent could find themselves in a juvenile court answering to a judge. In our next post, we will detail your rights as a parent when dealing with DCF.