Navigating family law matters, particularly those involving children and the Connecticut Department of Children and Families (DCF) can be emotional, complex, and overwhelming. At The Christie Law Firm, LLC, our experienced family matters attorney can help you to navigate your DCF case or another juvenile matter. As you learn more about DCF cases, it is important to understand the various terms that are often used in these case types. One term with which you should become familiar is “family with service needs.” Here is an overview of what “family with service needs,” or FWSN, means as well as some of the common actions that a court may take in an FWSN case.
What Is a Family with Service Needs?
In 2007, the Connecticut General Assembly passed a bill called, “An Act Concerning Children and Youth in Juvenile Matters.” Within this legislation, the term “family with service needs” is found and defined. According to the text of the bill, a family with service needs means a family that includes a child (under 18 years of age) who:
- Ran away from the parental home without just cause;
- Has engaged in indecent or immoral conduct;
- Is, for some reason, “beyond the control” of their parent or guardian (or another custodian);
- Has missed an excessive amount of school and, in addition to that, has been overly defiant of school rules and regulations while in school; or
- Is at least 13 years of age and has engaged in sexual intercourse with someone who is at least 13 years of age as well and is not more than two years older than the youth.
What Happens if My Family Is Identified As a Family with Service Needs?
The legislation mentioned above was passed on the basic premise that if a family is identified as a family with service needs, then both the family and the child of the family should be involved in services offered by the CT Department of Children and Families. These services designed to help the child and deal with the child’s unhealthy and problematic behavior.
The youth behaviors listed above may be reported to the DCF by a police officer, the child themself, the child’s parent, guardian, or foster parent, any child-caring institution, a probation officer, a school superintendent, or a commissioner of the DCF. If the child’s behaviors do indeed meet the criteria for a child and their family to be identified as an FWSN, the court may take any of the following actions:
- Issue a warning to the child;
- Decide to refer the child for voluntary services with the local school district (when the “family with service needs” identification is solely the result of the child missing school) or with the Department of Children and Families;
- Order the child to remain under the care of their parent or guardian and assign a probation officer to enforce the order;
- Place the child in the care and custody of a Department of Children and Families commissioner for up to 1.5 years, for placement in foster care; or
- Hold a temporary custody hearing and place the child in the temporary care of an appropriate person or agency until such a hearing.
Why You Need Representation from a Skilled Connecticut Attorney
At the law office of The Christie Law Firm, we know how scary it can be for both parents and a child to be identified as a family with service needs. While the fact is that the law provides for the coordination of resources designed to help a child, the reality is that this could mean that DCF removes a child from your home or takes other serious adverse actions against your child or your family.
The important thing to remember is that you have rights during this process. After an FWSN petition is filed, there will be a hearing. You want an attorney representing your child and your family during that hearing. The outcome of a hearing can have a major impact on your child’s and your family’s future. Your attorney can explain to you the law and your rights, and advocate for your family’s best interests throughout the process. Your attorney can also explain what happens post-hearing and what happens if there is a violation of an FWSN order.
Call The Christie Law Firm, LLC Today
At The Christie Law Firm, our experienced family with service needs attorney understands what you are going through and what you will be facing. As you navigate the complex system and laws related to the CT Department of Children and Families, our experienced Connecticut DCF lawyer will be by your side to answer your questions and provide legal advice and representation. To learn more about your rights, call our lawyer today at (860) 461-7494 or send us a message at your convenience.